US President Barack Obama has called on the West to remain united in its response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, saying that “with time” Moscow will realize “that brute force” cannot win.
Obama used his key speech to some 2,000 people in Brussels on Wednesday to say that no amount of Russian government propaganda can make right something the world knows is incorrect.
“So long as we remain united, the Russian people will recognize that they cannot achieve security, prosperity and the status they seek through brute force. And that’s why throughout this crisis we will combine our substantial pressure on Russia with an open door for diplomacy,” Obama said in his only speech in a six-day tour of Europe.
The president added that while the West was not directly affected by Russia’s incursion “indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent.”
“This is not another Cold War we’re entering into,” he said of the Ukraine crisis. “The United States and NATO do not seek any conflict with Russia.”
The US, its European allies and other countries all refuse to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, calling it an illegal land grab.
The transatlantic military alliance would seek to uphold its “one-for-all” duty to defend each other’s sovereignty, Obama added.
Russia, the US president said, is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident. He added, those truths are that borders cannot be re-drawn by force, international law must be respected and people should be able to decide their own futures.
US-EU united over Ukraine
Earlier in the day, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy hosted Obama at a UN-EU summit, with a large portion of the talks between the three leaders focusing on Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Just a few hours after Russia’s top general declared that the Russian flag was waving above every Crimean military base, Barroso, Van Rompuy and Obama all addressed increased sanctions that could be imposed on Russia if the situation continues to escalate.
Obama has said possible sanctions could be aimed at Russia’s energy sector. He added US-EU coordination on the issue has so far been good, and that if Moscow continues on its current course, “the isolation will deepen.”
Van Rompuy said that there was still time for Russia to work with Ukraine to find a diplomatic solution to the situation that saw Crimea pass from Ukrainian to Russian control after a referendum held by the citizens of Crimea, a move he described as “a disgrace in the 21st century.”
“We will not recognize it,” Van Rompuy said.
Obama said that if Russian leaders intended to increase the divisions between Europe and the US with their action in Crimea, “they clearly miscalculated.”
No US energy reliance
The conversation between the three men also focused on a free trade agreement that is being discussed between the US and the European Union, and its impact on energy policy.
Obama warned that Europe cannot rely on the US for its energy provisions.
“Europe collectively is going to need to examine … their energy policies, to find additional ways that they can diversify and accelerate energy independence,” he said. “But we’re also making some choices and taking on some of the difficulties and challenges of energy development, and Europe is going to have to go through some of those same conversations.”
Several EU nations rely heavily on Russia for gas supplies, sparking concern Moscow could limit its energy access in response to European and US sanctions.
“The situation in Ukraine proves the need to reinforce energy security in Europe,” Obama said. “We are considering new collaborate efforts to achieve this goal.”
Obama said the proposed EU-US free trade deal would make it “much easier” for Washington to grant natural gas licenses, as large amounts of the energy source is already licensed for export, just not specifically to Europe.
Obama is in Brussels for the Nuclear Security Summit, but is holding sideline talks with European leaders on the crisis in Crimea.
jlw/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)