Thursday, March 6, 2014

One week later, what Obama should say on Ukraine

‘‘Good evening.

Last Thursday, without warning, military forces from the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine.

This invasion has been calculating and patient; moving deliberately to seize control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and destabilize Ukrainian society.

Over the last few days, in conversations with the United States and our allies, Russia’s leaders have claimed that they took this action only in order to protect their citizens.

They say they had no choice.

That is a lie.

Let me be clear. I recognize that the political situation in Ukraine is tense and uncertain. I’m also fully aware of the Russian government’s fears – many ethnic Russians live in eastern and southern Ukraine. The Russian Navy has traditionally relied upon Crimean ports as the base for their Black Sea fleet. In the aftermath of the recent revolution Russia has an obvious desire to protect its interests.

But fear is no excuse for an invasion.

Indeed, we’re witnessing today is a cold echo of a former era that was defined by fear.

 In the images of tanks and soldiers and ships crushing dissent, President Putin is dishonoring his nation and pillaging the traditions of international law that he claims to cherish.

This must not stand.

And so, today, I want to outline a number of steps that my Administration is taking in order to support our Ukrainian friends and compel Russia to return to the table of peaceful diplomacy.

First, I have instructed the State Department to begin consultations with our G7 allies towards expelling Russia from the G8. With what we’re seeing; both in Ukraine and in Russia’s continuing support for the dictator in Syria, the Kremlin has clearly lost interest in a constructive partnership with the international community. While I hope that Russia will return to the community of nations, we must accept reality in the moment. Correspondingly, America cannot accept the G8's credibility as legitimation for this injustice.

Second, I’ve spoken with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress in order to begin laying out a targeted sanctions response against those Russian leaders and institutions that are involved in this invasion. But it won’t just be America. We’ll work with our partners around the world in order to make sure that Russia understands the whole world stands against them. Russia’s leaders must realize that their access to the international economy is not a fait accompli. That trust and cooperation are earned. We will not allow these leaders to profit while the specter of war blankets Ukrainian society.

Third, paying close attention to Russian troop movements inside Ukraine and along the borders of Poland and Lithuania, I’ve ordered our military to move certain key assets into the region. Again, let me be clear, these deployments are precautionary and defensive. We do not seek a conflict with Russia. Nevertheless, we’re aware of our responsibilities under NATO. We won’t tolerate intimidation without answer. So let me emphasize this fact – although we stand ready to talk at any time, our allies should feel confidence that their friendship with America has meaning.

Underlying these actions is a simple policy consideration. History. Over centuries of conflict, we’ve learned that aggression cannot be appeased by equivocation. So while it’s tempting to believe that words of condemnation would provide an effective response alone, the truth of this invasion is harder. Russia must be made to understand that every action has a reaction. A reaction beyond anger.

America seeks friendship with Russia but we will not accept a dominion of fear.

This speaks to something else- only Russia can make the choices that are necessary to defuse this crisis.

Russia is better than this.

Two weeks ago, the world applauded as Russia delivered a flourish of internationalism – an Olympic games defined by human excellence and mutual respect. Those games defined Russia at its best – proud, talented and passionate.

But today, the world is seeing a very different Russia.

Today, just a little more than two hundred miles from Sochi, we’re being reminded of another, darker testament from history – that the balance between greatness and ignominy is a sharp one. That the face of a nation is not measured by the prestige of one moment, but instead by the legacy of its actions.

My fellow Americans, in this moment, Russia has made its choice. Now we must make ours.

With resolve in our power and confidence in our values, we are now taking a stand for the freedom of a friend and for the peace of the world.

Good evening and may God continue to bless America.’’

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