Obama Encourages a Strong Stance on Russia in European Address

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

President Barack Obama spoke to European Union leaders on Wednesday in a speech intended to encourage aid to NATO, a strong stance against Russia, the urgency of the Ukrainian plight, and the need for a secure and capable Europe in the face of an aggressive Russia. He emphasized that the defense of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia would require the contribution of all involved, and that energy independence would be vital. He also criticized the wavering contribution, saying that “everyone’s got to chip in” in an earlier meeting with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, according to The Washington Post.

He spoke on democracy and the fall of the iron curtain, the history of freedom in Europe and the fight for rights worldwide, eventually reaching the topic of Ukraine, and Russian advances. “We must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and around the world, because the contest continues,” said Obama. He also emphasized the difference between America’s role in Ukraine and Russia’s belief that “bigger nations can bully smaller nations to get their way.” He responded to accusations that the U.S. was interfering in Russia in its own way, saying, “It is absurd to suggest … that America is somehow conspiring with fascists inside of Ukraine, or failing to respect the Russian people.”

He noted that the U.S. “economy’s not deeply integrated with Ukraines, our people and our homeland face no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea. Our own borders are not threated by Russia’s annexation.” Rather, Obama said, the Ukrainian people’s similar desire for rights calls its fellows to support it. “We’ve never met these people, but we know them. Their voices echo calls for human dignity that rang out in European streets for generations.”

Recent tensions with Russia have been compared  to the Cold War both in the news and by politicians, including Stephen J. Hadley, the former National Security Adviser to George W. Bush. “[Putin] wants to rewrite the history that emerged at the end of the Cold War. We have fundamentally different approaches to what Europe is going to be,” Hadley said to The New York Times. Obama dismissed the comparison, saying that this conflict with Russia is distinctly different. “The United States and NATO do not seek any conflict with Russia, in fact for more than sixty years we have come together in NATO not to claim other lands, but to keep nations free.”

He repeated the threat of greater sanctions and further isolation of the Russian nation, should it continue on its path, emphasizing the economic and political issues that this will lead to as time progresses, and that in time Russia will come to see that it cannot gain, “through brute force,” that which it desires, and reemphasizing the open doorway to diplomacy and discussion with Russia. “What we will do always is uphold our solemn obligation, our article five duty, to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our allies. And in that promise we will never waver,” said Obama, “NATO nations never stand alone.”

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