President Obama told European youth that no one can know what future events in Ukraine and the Crimean region may bring, but eventually the voices for human dignity, opportunity, individual rights and the rule of law will triumph.
“The situation in Ukraine, like crises in many parts of the world, does not have easy answers nor a military solution,” Obama said.
Speaking in Brussels March 26 following the U.S.-EU Summit, Obama said that the United States and Europe must not assume that the democratic progress won on the continent and advanced around the world is secure. “The contest of ideas continues,” he said.
“Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future,” Obama said.
The EU and the United States have rejected a Crimean referendum held March 16 to break away from Ukraine and seek Russian annexation, saying the referendum violated the Ukrainian Constitution, international norms and Russia’s own international obligations.
Russia’s violation of international law and its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be condemned, Obama said. “At this moment, we must meet the challenge to our ideals, to our very international order, with strength and international peace and security,” he added.
In the past two weeks, the United States, Europe and global allies presented a united front in supporting those ideals and in support of the Ukrainian people. European nations and the United States have worked to isolate Russia politically and economically, suspended it from the Group of Eight advanced economies and implemented reduced bilateral relations.
Sanctions were imposed. However, Obama warned that if Russia stays on its current course, the isolation and sanctions will deepen, affecting more of Russia’s economy.
Earlier, while meeting at The Hague, Netherlands, the G7 major economies — the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan — scrapped plans to attend the G8 summit (the G8 is the G7 plus Russia) set for Sochi, Russia, and will meet instead in Brussels.
The speech came as Obama held a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and pledged extensive new measures to bolster NATO forces in Europe, its allies and partners. Obama also reaffirmed that the American commitment to come to the defense of NATO allies is absolute.
The president is at the midpoint of a weeklong, four-nation trip that began in the Netherlands with the third Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague and will conclude with meetings in Saudi Arabia. He met earlier in the day with Belgian King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo during a visit and wreath-laying ceremony at the World War I Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial in northwest Belgium.
Obama travels next to Rome for an audience with Pope Francis and extensive meetings with Italian officials.
- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva