News / Europe

Obama: Russia Must Work With New Ukraine Leader

G7 Leaders Urge Russia to Seize Chance for Peacei
June 05, 2014 11:04 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders of the G-7 group of industrialized democracies are calling on Russia to seize the chance to make peace as Ukraine prepares to swear in its new president, Petro Poroshenko. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez is traveling with the president and has this report from Brussels.
Related video report from Luis Ramirez, "G7 Leaders Urge Russia to Seize Chance for Peace"
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U.S. President Barack Obama said that Russian President Vladimir Putin must recognize and work with Ukraine's newly-elected government and stop "provocations" along its border, or face tougher sanctions from members of the Group of Seven nations.

All sides agreed Russia should change its behavior, and they joined in threatening to slap new sanctions that would target entire sectors of the Russian economy.

“We will have a chance to see what Mr. Putin does over the next two, three, four weeks, and if he remains on the current course, then we've already indicated the kinds of actions that we're prepared to take,” Obama said at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of a G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium.
“Russia needs to seize that opportunity,” Obama said. “Russia needs to recognize that President-elect [Petro] Poroshenko is the legitimately elected leader of Ukraine and engage the government in Kyiv.”

"Lockstep" strategy

Obama emerged from two days of meetings with the G7, saying it was a chance for the gathered leaders to make sure they are in “lockstep” on a strategy going forward in uncertain times in Ukraine.

He and Cameron both praised the united front that the U.S. and Europe has maintained in dealing with Russia and the crisis in Ukraine.

"What has been striking has been the degree of solidary between the United States and Europe in this crisis," Obama said. "I've been heartened by the steadfastness of Europe so far."
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after a G7 group photo in Brussels, June 5, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama laughs as he looks at British Prime Minister David Cameron during a G7 session in Brussels, June 5, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Belgian King Philippe and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Royal Palace of Brussels, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski show the peace sign at a Freedom Day event at Royal Square in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony marking the "Freedom Day" anniversary in Warsaw's Castle Square, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony marking the Freedom Day anniversary in Castle Square in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski walk away after a group photo with Central and Eastern European Leaders in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski walk to make statements after meeting U.S. and Polish troops at an event featuring F-16 fighter jets in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.

Obama said he understands the real economic consequences on countries that have extensive trade ties with Russia, but indicated those have to be weighed against the values and principles that Russia has violated.

“The choice is clear: Europeans have to stand up for those ideals and principles even if it creates some economic inconvenience," he said.

The president said the U.S. is looking at sanctions that would maximize the consequences on Russia but minimize the adverse effects on the economies of G7 nations.

Dialogue encouraged

Obama urged Putin to “enter into a dialogue” with  Poroshenko, who is being inaugurated Saturday after winning the May 25 election.

G7 Leaders Meeting in  Brussels
  • Agreed coordinated actions must continue to raise the cost of Russia's interference in Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea
  • Pledged to support Ukraine as it pursues reforms to transform its economy
  • Denounced the use of energy supplies as a tool of political coercion
  • Pledged assistance to Ukraine and other countries looking to develop their own energy resources
  • Agreed that concrete action on climate change is an essential complement to steps to strengthen energy security
  • Committed to development projects, including promoting food security, advancing global health security, and supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Source: White House
Cameron, who will meet with Putin later Thursday, said he plans to tell the Russian president that Russia's actions in Ukraine are unacceptable and at odds with G7 leaders' democratic values.

The prime minister said he plans to discuss with Putin the demands outlined by the G7 members as a whole -- that Russia respect the results of Ukraine's presidential election, stop the flow of fighters and weapons to the eastern part of the country, and completely withdraw troops from its border with Ukraine

If Putin does not meet the demands, Russia, whose economy has already begun to suffer from present sanctions, will possibly face harsher, sectoral sanctions, Cameron said.

Mistral sale

In other questions, Obama also said he had "expressed some concerns" to France about its sale of warships to Russia during this period.
“I think it would have been preferable to press the pause button," Obama said in response to a question about the decision to go ahead with the sale of French Mistral warships despite events in Ukraine.

France has come under pressure from some European allies to  pull the plug on the 1.2-billion-euro deal on the grounds Russia could use the Mistral-class helicopter carriers to threaten its Black Sea neighbors.

France agreed to the sale under a 2011 contract, with the first vessel due in October and the second in 2015.
The Mistral, the second-largest ship in the French navy, is a high-seas military base that can transport up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 60 armed vehicles and some 700 troops.

Other G7 action
In other G7 action, the world's leading industrialized nations vowed on Thursday to seal a series of free-trade deals that would radically change the shape of global commerce despite rising popular opposition.
Leaders of the G7 committed themselves to eight far-reaching accords that would encompass more than 80 percent of the world's economy but that effectively sideline China and Russia and have met with protests, particularly in Europe.
In the most ambitious round of liberalization since the demise of the Doha round of global trade talks, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States want to create a market of almost a billion people and set world trade rules that the rest may have to follow.

Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6
Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6
Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6

An EU-U.S. deal alone could generate $100 billion in additional economic output a year on both sides of the Atlantic.

The G7 also gave their backing on Thursday to a new global deal on climate change in 2015.

Earlier this week, the United States announced a plan to cut emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, which will run into domestic opposition, prompting the European Union into a defense of its own record.
China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, also gave a hint that it would set some kind of cap on its emissions.
A draft of the G7 communique seen by Reuters said the G7 nations remained committed to low-carbon economies and limiting temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit scientists say can prevent the most devastating effects of climate change.

And the G7 offered the EU support with its efforts to make its energy supplies more secure, promising to “complement the efforts of the European Commission to develop emergency energy plans for winter 2014-2015”.
In Europe, the quest for energy security in the face of threats from Russia that it could disrupt supplies of gas pumped through Ukraine, has knocked the climate debate down the agenda.
But addressing the G7 in Brussels, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the two issues went “hand in hand.”
EU nations said domestic, renewable sources, such as solar and wind, can reduce the need for fossil fuel imports from nations such as Russia, while Poland, which relies on polluting coal, said coal is a reliable, domestic fuel source.
D-Day ceremony

Obama's aim at this G7 summit was to further isolate Russia and galvanize support among western European nations for tougher sanctions in case it is necessary to apply them.

The summit was originally scheduled as a G-8 to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, with Putin as host.

After Russia annexed Crimea, the economic powers revoked the Russian leader's invitation and moved the meeting to Brussels.  

"Originally of course our summit was supposed to be in Sochi, but after Russia's actions in Ukraine, our nations united quickly around a common strategy. We suspended Russia from the G8, and we canceled the Sochi meeting, making this the first G7 held without Russia in some 20 years," Obama said on Thursday.

During the visit, though, it became clear that not all G-7 leaders were as eager as Obama to isolate Putin.

The Russian president and Obama are both attending D-Day commemorations in France Friday, but there are no plans for them to meet.

Other G-7 leaders, however, are meeting privately with Putin, including French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Later Thursday, Obama headed to Paris and was to attend a dinner with Hollande, who had planned a second dinner with Putin later the same night.

The meetings will come at a ceremony in Normandy, France to mark the 70th anniversary of the allied D-Day invasion against Nazi forces in World War II.
Kerry, Lavrov meet

The top U.S. and Russian diplomats met in Paris on Thursday, and agreed that Ukraine should be a bridge between Russia and the West and not be a “pawn” in a power struggle.

"President-elect Poroshenko has made it clear that he wants to reach out to all of the people of Ukraine, and he intends to make a major effort to bring the country together," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said before meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"This is an opportunity we hope for Russia, the United States, and others ... to make a Ukraine that is strong economically, whose sovereignty is respected, whose independence is respected, but which clearly is not the pawn in a tug-of-war between other nations ... [and] able to act as a bridge between east and west with trade, with engagement between all parties," Kerry said.
“We would like to see Ukraine peaceful, stable. A place for all those who live in Ukraine ... to be feeling equal, respected, and listened to, living in peace being a bridge, not being a pawn,”  Lavrov said.

Luis Ramirez contributed to this report from Brussels, some information provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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Comment Sorting
by: arslonga vitabrevis
June 06, 2014 1:36 PM
Obama was one of many leaders to make the clear statement that Putin must recognize and work with Poroshenko and it is based on the call for global human and civil rights, movement away from oppression. This is simply a call for humanitarian self determination, Obama one of many, to call for an end to aggressive and oppressive means. In these comments I hear echoes; Ukrainian and Russian farmers moved to Canada during past times of oppression and that is where some of us have our foundations of interest. We know what happened in the past and we know that Russians and Ukrainians can get along.

It is so sad to see the Ukraine go through this abuse forever. Now is the time for them to get this right, to cement a solid independence and identity of self determination and they need the support of countries who have matured, who have evolved their own civil and human rights, who have begun to address their own problems of oppression. In Russia you get murdered if you say something the government doesn't like; journalists and human rights activists risk their lives in Russia. Here in the US, our presidents are strong enough to take criticism without feeling the need to silence anyone, here in the US there is not the deadly oppression there is in Russia. That is what this is all about ultimately, that and that only, and that is what the leaders are addressing.

by: guest
June 06, 2014 11:43 AM
I wonder, who is Obama to warn Mr. Putin? Obama to order that Putin should work with president elect of Ukraine shows that he (Obama) is the one who is behind such a chaos in Ukraine.

by: rich from: cal
June 06, 2014 9:50 AM
Yup - BO drew a line in the sand, he's mad as hell, there will be consequences.
Um - Ever wonder why Putin didn't pull this when Bush was in office? Huh?

by: Babeouf from: Republic of Ireland
June 06, 2014 6:27 AM
'U.S. President Barack Obama said that Russian President Vladimir Putin must recognize and work with Ukraine's newly-elected government' Well of course if Putin 'must' then since he has no choice he will. Of course if Putin has choices then even though he 'must' he might not. And while I think that the US threats are a hardly unexpected they won't cut any ice with the Russian government on Russia's border. The more limited the Western actions the greater US threats as words substitute for deeds,. There is no support in Western Europe for sanctions against Russia. And on its current trajectory the 'Western alliance', as US Presidents like to refer to their European colonies , is destined to implode.

by: Anonymous
June 06, 2014 5:53 AM
Putin has shown nothing but disrespect to people of: Ukraine, and Syria, Georgia, and Chechnya several other places too.

His disgusting business practices are similar to those of a jackass more than a hero. Every Russian I know of in the free to speak western world can not stand him.

by: Rina from: Jordan
June 06, 2014 5:28 AM
And Obama Must work with the elected government of Syria , Mr. Obama contradicts himself .

by: Igor from: Russia
June 05, 2014 11:36 PM
Mr. Obama, you must lower your voice while urging others to accept your ideas. You are only the president of the USA so do not make a ridiculous mistake by using "must". Do you symply think Russia will be afraid of your threat? What an incapable president!

by: Kessy from: Japan
June 05, 2014 6:53 PM
"Strong" is relative, and more clearly from the comment from Godwin. There is context to all this conflict here. While on the one hand it is easy for people to point fingers at US for not being "strong", pause for a moment and ask what all of you who know what it means to be strong could have done, based on the proximity of Ukraine to Russia, and on the other hand consider that EU should have more strategic interest in Ukraine than America has. But nobody is pointing at that. If Ukraine was a next door neighbor to US, and events took similar trend, I wonder what people would say about Putin's strength. He would not have said a word for fear of the inevitable.

by: moritz katz from: germany
June 05, 2014 12:40 PM
Double standards for the entire world to see. Russia has allowed the will of the citizens to prevail which is more than what happened in Iraq Libya Syria and numerous other countries. Putin is at the moment the world's best leader may God bless him and the great nation of Russia.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 05, 2014 5:52 AM
I think president Putin is a hard man strong enough to withstand western pressures. But that is paying off only in the area of ability to absorb pressure. However he is not pragmatic or coercive enough to counter them head-on. What Russia needs is someone with brain, someone who is not just reactionary but with a clout to be able to preempt western actions. Somehow the weakness in the US administration is replicating in Russia's inability to think ahead and counter the flurry of diplomatic bombardments to which Moscow has been subjected due to western desire to monopolize the earth systems. Therefore, if Putin finds himself unsuitable to reposition Russia in its place pre- and post cold war, he should step down to allow better thinkers and technocrats take over the kingdom to forestall further drift into oblivion - which is what all the action of the west - call it G-7, NATO, individual western powers and USA, or Allied Forces - want. Putin should stop being reactive and become proactive; he should be giving not always to be at the receiving end.
In Response

by: PrayerInTheDark from: Nowhere
June 06, 2014 4:59 AM
@Katherine Oughton, I wish Russia was neighbor to Canada. You are some kind of sofa-politician, right? Go to Ukraine and see how it actually is.
It should be mentioned that I don't like Putin. But all your messages here have no resemblance to reality.
In Response

by: Vovan from: Ukraine
June 05, 2014 8:47 AM
But as regarding Ukraine and Ukrainian people? Why does not interest you: will they survive inhuman and mean tactic of Putin? Ukraine is a country with a population in 50 millions and it is the victim of Russian aggression!
In Response

by: Katherine Oughton from: Ontario, Canada
June 05, 2014 8:35 AM
I think Putin has been proactive enough in seizing his neighbor's lands. Stealing Crimea fro Ukraine was his biggest geopolitical error.That woke up the lions and some hyenas. He is now responsible for sending Russian and Chechens into east Ukraine, and helping to arm some malcontents within Ukraine. I wish Russia was neighbor to Nigeria and not Ukraine. Then you could experience first-hand how uncoersive he can be. My mother tongue is Ukrainian, so I am involved.

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