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Obama Security Strategy Warns Against Overreaching by US

  • Aru Pande

President Barack Obama takes questions after speaking at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Feb. 6, 2015.

President Barack Obama takes questions after speaking at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, Feb. 6, 2015.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice says she starts every morning with a briefing covering the most sobering threats on the global stage. Whether the challenge is an Ebola outbreak or Russian aggression, she says, the world would be a markedly different place without U.S. leadership to confront it.

“Without us, Russia would be suffering no costs for its actions in Ukraine," Rice told an audience Friday at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Instead, the ruble is in a free fall and Russia is paying dearly for flouting the rules. Without us, there would be no military campaign or 60 countries countering ISIL’s advance. There would be no prospect for a global deal on climate change.”

Rice reiterated what President Barack Obama has often said about U.S. foreign policy: It’s not whether the United States leads, but how it leads.

In his latest national security strategy — released Friday, for only the second time in his presidency — Obama makes clear that while the United States leads from a position of strength, “this does not mean we can or should attempt to dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world.”

The president notes that while the United States is demonstrating “we will act unilaterally against threats to our core interests, we are stronger when we mobilize collective action.”

This collective action, Rice said Friday, is seen in the fight to degrade and destroy the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

“Together we've taken out thousands of ISIL's fighters, destroyed nearly 200 oil and gas facilities that fund their terror, and pushed them out of territory, including areas around Baghdad, Sinjar and the Mosul dam," she said. "Just last week, ISIL conceded defeat in their months-long siege of Kobani.”

Rice said re-enforcing human rights such as equality and investing in education and economic development to eliminate poverty are key to national security. Obama has called for such steps to help eliminate the root causes of violent extremism.

The White House national security adviser said the U.S. also would continue to uphold the liberal international order — calling Russia’s aggression against Ukraine a “heinous and deadly affront to long-standing international norms.”

“We have built a coalition of partners around the world to impose steep political and economic cost on Russia, in contrast to the cost-free invasion of Georgia," Rice said. "And we will continue to turn up the pressure, unless Russia decisively reverses course.''

Obama’s national security strategy also tackles the challenges of cybersecurity, nuclear proliferation and climate change — broad issues that the American leader says require a broad coalition for effective action.

He also focuses on the Asia rebalance, and on Friday, Rice announced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping would make state visits to the U.S. this year.

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