While pledging to continue to oppose the Russian takeover of Crimea with all the tools at his disposal, President Barack Obama stated on Wednesday night that the crisis in Ukraine was "not another cold war."
Unlike in the past, Obama told an audience of European leaders at the Palais Des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, "Russia leads no bloc of nations" and does not represent any global ideology. It was simply operating on the "belief that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way."
Russia will not be dislodged from Crimea through military force, Obama stated, but it will realize over time that it can't achieve "what it seeks through brute force."
In a delicately nuanced speech that expressed strong opposition to Russia while keeping the door open to negotiations, Obama stressed that "peace will only come through negotiations."
So far, he stated, Russia "has resisted diplomatic overtures."
"Now is not the time for bluster," the president said. "There are no easy answers or military solutions to the problem in Ukraine. We must meet the challenge with strength and conviction."
Obama said that he and the leaders of Europe had agreed on both sanctions against Russia and assistance to Ukraine during his visit to Europe.
The sanctions will expand, he averred, and "we will enforce the isolation of Russia." The United States and its allies will continue to support Ukraine "as it charts a democratic course."
The U.S., Obama pledged, will uphold Article 5 [of NATO] and regards it as its duty to "defend the territorial integrity of our allies." NATO planes were flying over the Baltics as he spoke, he said, calling on every member of NATO to "show the will to invest in our security."
"This is a moment of testing for Europe and the U.S.," the president said. "The international order that we worked generations to build" is under threat and a fundamental principle – the right of people to choose their own future – is at stake.
"The Russian leadership is challenging truths that seemed self-evident until recently."
Obama strongly rejected Russian arguments that European support for the independence of Kosovo and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 created precedents for the annexation of Crimea.
In Kosovo, he explained, "NATO only intervened after people had been brutalized and killed" and the vote for independence had been organized by the United Nations.
In Iraq – an intervention that he opposed, the president said – the U.S. had "sought to work within the international system and did not grab Iraqi territory or resources." It ended the war and "left Iraq to its people."
Earlier in the day, Obama said that Europe cannot rely on the United States 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," Obama said.
"The United States as a source of energy is one possibility," Obama said, "but we're also making 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 as well."
Nevertheless, a highly anticipated EU-U.S. free trade deal would make it "much easier" for his country to grant natural gas licenses, Obama said, noting that large amounts of gas are already licensed for export, but not specifically for the European market.
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