Ukraine crisis: West must stand up to Russia’s bullying, says Barack Obama

US President tells EU it has to lessen its dependence on Russian energy

brussels

President Barack Obama has launched a robust defence of American and European values, telling an audience in Brussels that they must unite behind their ideals to counter Russia’s “bullying” of Ukraine and its return to the tactics of the past.

Mr Obama spoke of his visit to the First World War battlefields and referenced both the violent upheaval of the two world wars and the decades of the Cold War which divided East and West, as he sought to emphasise Western unity in the face of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “Once again we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way,” Mr Obama said in Brussels.

“So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world. Because the contest of ideas continues, for your generation, and that’s what is at stake in Ukraine today,” he said.

“Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions.”

He also responded directly to President Vladimir Putin’s scathing speech to the Kremlin earlier this month, in which he accused the West of hypocrisy and cited the Iraq war as an example. The US President conceded that the conflict provoked debate, but insisted that “America sought to work within the international system – we did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory”.

Mr Obama also used his first trip to Brussels since taking office to tell European nations that they need to lessen their dependence on Russian energy and maintain spending on defence and security if they want to meet the new challenges posed by Moscow’s power-grab in Ukraine.

While he stressed that the European Union was America’s “closest partner” and praised their joint efforts to chastise and isolate President Putin after his annexation of Crimea earlier this month, he was clear that the EU could not rely on the US alone to help wean itself off the Russian oil and gas.

“Europe collectively has to examine it energy policies.” Mr Obama said at a press conference earlier with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy. Meanwhile, in Crimea, Russian forces captured the last Ukrainian navy ship after firing warning shots and stun grenades, completing Moscow’s grip on the Black Sea peninsula.

While the West has raised concern over Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said it seemed likely that the firm Western response so far would stop Russia undertaking what he called “other acts of aggression and interference on the territory of Ukraine”.

Mr Obama praised the joint effort by the US and EU to impose sanctions on a number of Russian officials, and repeated that any further Russian military incursions would provoke much deeper economic sanctions which would hit at the heart of the Russian economy.

He also had strong words for members of Nato, which rely on America to provide the bulk of the funding for the military alliance. He did not single out any particular nations, but his defence officials have in the past said the decline in European defence spending could lead to the break-up of the alliance.

Russia’s intervention in one of its neighbours, he added, “ reminds us that our freedom isn’t free, and we’ve got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training that’s required”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea