News / Europe

Obama: Russia Acting 'Out of Weakness' on Ukraine

President Barack Obama speaks during their joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, Mar. 25, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks during their joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, Mar. 25, 2014.
VOA News
President Barack Obama said Russia was acting "out of weakness" and not strength in its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
 
In comments to reporters following a nuclear summit in The Hague Tuesday, Obama said the international community would never recognize Russia's takeover of Crimea, while adding that a military response from the West was unlikely.
 
The U.S. leader said Washington is still concerned about "further encroachment" into Ukraine by Russia.
 
On Monday, leaders from the U.S. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan said they were suspending their participation with Russia in the G8, until Moscow "changes course."
 
Russian news agencies quote a Kremlin spokesman as saying Russia is ready for and interested in continuing contacts with its fellow G8 countries. 

On the same day the U.S. president made those remarks, Russia staged military training exercises in Transdniestria, a breakaway region of Moldova.
       
NATO's top military commander also expressed concern Sunday that after seizing Crimea, Moscow might have its eye on the mostly Russian-speaking region that borders western Ukraine.

Speaking alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Obama said that Crimea being a part of Russia is not a "done deal" because it violates international law.

"We're not recognizing what has happened in Crimea," he said, adding sanctions  against Russia may deepen into energy and trade sectors. "It is up to Russia to act responsibly and show itself once again to be willing to abide by international norms and...if it fails to do so, there will be some costs."

For now, however, Obama and fellow G7 leaders have decided against more damaging economic sanctions unless Russia shows further aggression and goes beyond the seizure of Crimea.

Obama said he believes if Ukrainians had a choice, they would seek to have a relationship with both Europe and Russia.

The U.S. president also said all NATO nations have assurances that they will continue to be protected under the alliance's security guidelines.

Rutte, the Danish prime minister, said he cannot envision the Crimea situation ending in a military conflict. 

"This is a difficult issue. It can't be solved overnight," said Rutte, who also commended Obama's leadership.

Obama also said he doesn't consider Russia to be the number one U.S. national security threat and that he is more concerned about the possibility of a nuclear bomb going off in New York. 

'Counterproductive'

Russia, meanwhile, has dismissed as "counterproductive" a move by world powers to cut Moscow out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations over its actions in Ukraine.
Trade balance between 28 member nations of Europe and RussiaTrade balance between 28 member nations of Europe and Russia
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Trade balance between 28 member nations of Europe and Russia
Trade balance between 28 member nations of Europe and Russia
The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin made the comment one day after the seven other G-8 nations agreed to hold their own Group of Seven summit in June instead of attending the previously-planned G-8 meeting in Russia.

In a joint statement issued on the sidelines of the  nuclear summit in The Hague, Netherlands, the leaders of the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan said they were suspending their participation with Russia in the G-8, until Moscow "changes course." Western powers have been moving to isolate Russia over its annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

Russian news agencies quote the Kremlin spokesman as saying Russia is ready for and interested in continuing contacts with its fellow G-8 countries. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday it would be "no great tragedy" if Russia were dropped from the coalition.

Lavrov met his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia Monday on the sidelines of the nuclear summit. It was their first meeting and the highest-level meeting yet between the Russian government and the new Ukrainian government.

On Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu toured Russian military headquarters in Crimea, as Russian forces seized Ukraine's last military base on the peninsula and Ukrainian forces withdrew.

Late Monday, Russia's Ria Novosti news agency quoted Crimea's deputy prime minister as saying all military units in the peninsula are now under the control of the Russian military.

Images from Ukraine and Crimea
 
  • Ukrainian tanks are transported from their base in Perevalne, outside Simferopol, Crimea, March 26, 2014.
  • Ukrainian soldiers transport their tanks from their base in Perevalnoe, outside Simferopol, Crimea, March 26, 2014.
  • Russian police cars drive and Ukrainian soldiers walk behind Ukrainian tanks at Perevalnoe, outside Simferopol, Crimea, March 26, 2014.
  • Crimean retirees line up to get their pensions in Russian rubles inside a post office in Simferopol, Crimea, March 25, 2014.
  • Ukrainian marines prepare to leave their base in Feodosia, Crimea, March 25, 2014.
  • Russian sailors stand on board the ship Aleksandrovets at the port of Sevastopol, Crimea, March 25, 2014.
  • Ukrainian sailors leave the Konstantin Olshansky navy ship in the bay of Donuzlav, Crimea, March 24, 2014.
  • People line up to apply for Russian passports in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 24, 2014.
  • A man carries a placard with currency rates at an exchange office in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 24, 2014.


Troop movements

Ukraine's Secretary for National Security, Andriy Parubiy, tells VOA that about 100,000 Russian troops and armor are poised along Ukrainian borders and remain on full alert.

That troop presence on Ukraine's eastern and southern borders has triggered alarm in Kyiv. It also has spawned warnings from NATO that Moscow may be seeking to expand its territorial reach into another pro-Russian territory on Ukraine's southwestern border - Transdniester.

For its part, Moscow has insisted the border troops are conducting maneuvers, and says there are no plans to cross into Ukraine.

Ukraine has remained highly unstable since November, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych backed off from signing a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The move led to weeks of anti-government protests in Kyiv that forced Yanukovych to flee the country last month.

Crimeans voted last week in a highly controversial ballot to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, a move quickly embraced by Russian President Putin. The United States and the European Union say the vote violates Ukraine's constitution and is illegal.

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by: johan from: new brunswick
March 26, 2014 3:38 AM
Space exploration, and the development of new technology is the only hope for progression of the human race. Nuclear war is not a problem, but the economies we all share is. To be or not be human.

by: johnson from: new brunswick
March 26, 2014 3:29 AM
Why should we punish Russia for looking after its people. In the next coming years, China will become a superior force with its closest geographic partner Russia reaping the benefits as does the Canada USA relationship. I think all of Europe could benefit from Russia, as with Russian resources. To do away with Russia is a mistake, and one that is not in the interest of the world. The world we are on, planet earth; a miniscule dot in the universe. Russians are people, intelligent people as are those from the west. We should not be driven by power and world corruption.

by: andrew from: hillsboro
March 26, 2014 12:52 AM
It seems that what Russia is doing is quite remarkable. We all know that here in the west things have to change. But we don't see any change in sight. We Americans have no control over what Congress decides to do or what executive actions obama orders. No matter how hard we try we are ants. It takes a big dog to take on a big dog. With all our secrete agendas that goes towards a one world government that is filled with secretes and spies its no wonder others want to challenge America. What Putin says makes allot of sense. Let these countries vote. We as the world should vote what we want the world to be shaped like. There should be countries that decide they want to walk around naked. If under Islamic law they want to cut off hands and stone people for cheating on your spouse that is what they choose. They can stay where they are at. But for those that want to leave they should be free to go to any other country they want. Those Ukrainians are Ukrainians and that is there land. The Russian followers should be free to leave. Its like China coming in and saying alright we have 59% of Americans population Chinese so we are going to come in and have a vote and take your land if we win.

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
March 26, 2014 12:15 AM
The world just can sit there and allowed one man to dictate to the rest of the world. First and fore more Mr. Putin needs to realized that he has influence on another country sovereignty. He has broken international law, and this is a criminal behavior. He should be brought to justice. What is the ICC doing about this? Had it been Africa, then they will will flex their muscles. Is there a man in the international community or the men are bluffing? But someone needs to stand face to face with Russia nonsense.

by: Igor from: Russia
March 25, 2014 11:12 PM
Mr. Obama, how can the US and some western nations such as those in G7 consider themselves "international community". How dare you consider yourselves representative of the whole world? You are as arrogant as Turkey-cocks. Those who do not care for the will of Crimea people's will have no legal status to justify Russia's action on Crimea. China, Vietnam and many other countries would still be slave colonies of those western nations if they had not risen up for themselves agianst those considering themselves representatives of the world. Some countries in the world have already begun to recognize Crimea as Russia's territory, you see.

by: Malek Towghi from: Michigan, USA
March 25, 2014 10:23 PM
1. "Crimea is not a done deal" ! I wonder what rights Mr. Obama and other western leaders have to force more than 90% citizens of Crimea to be ruled by Kiev !?

2. Pakistanis and the Saudis must me rejoicing in the revival of the Cold War !! Congratulations, Mr. Obama! You will be in good company!!

3. The good news is that we will soon see a robust revival of the anti-war movement in Europe and North America.

4. I deeply regret voting twice for Mr. Obama.

5. My instincts tell me that the German and the Japanese leaderships will soon start distancing themselves from Obama's ant--Russia jingoism.

by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
March 25, 2014 9:56 PM
President Obama of US has written off Crimea with token sanction against 21 Russian individuals. Future financial sanction will be announced only after further incursions to Ukraine or Moldova. Obama is advising Ukraine to develop good relation both with EU and Russia.
EU has abandoned Ukraine by token financial sanctions against few Russian individuals. EU is always an inactive divided political entity and response to Russian invasion of Crimean is not an exception.
NATO ignored the Russian aggression in Ukraine because Ukraine is not a NATO nation. Ukraine cannot be defended by NATO, because Ukraine is on the border with Russia and do not have a border with any NATO country.
The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OECD) also acknowledged the Russian annexation of Crimea, by sending 100 observers not to Crimea, but to Ukraine.
The UN is paralyzed to take any action because of the Russian veto.
The above actions indicate that Russia and China are free to annex any territories or countries or territorial waters of other countries and continue their occupation till the next world war.

by: Albert The First
March 25, 2014 6:05 PM
What is the problem?
Now EU could join Ukraine quickly (goverment and half of population supports this idea) and you could stop "Putin agression".

But I am not sure that EU is ready spend so much money to maintain the ukrainian state (like Russia for previous goverments) and european quotas for ukrainian goods would make ukrainians happy.

by: chris from: NC
March 25, 2014 5:40 PM
All the illegal things that president Obama has done to America, he has no right to condemn president Putin.

by: Freddy
March 25, 2014 2:09 PM
Mr President sir, I am afraid the annexation is indeed a done deal and the likelihood of further steps are indeed a reality, unless there are consequences, which at this time, have not had any significant effect.
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