U.S. leader uses European address to emphasize diplomacy but condemns Moscow's reckless and illegal actions in Crimea
BRUSSELS - Russia will not be dislodged from Crimea or deterred from further escalation by military force, U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
"Make no mistake: neither the United States nor Europe has any interest in controlling Ukraine," Obama said, addressing a 2,000-strong audience at Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts, where he made his only planned speech during a four-day European tour.
"We have sent no troops there. What we want is for the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions, just like other free people around the world."
Obama said that as long as they remain united, the Russian people would recognize that they cannot achieve the security, prosperity and the status that they seek through brute force.
"And that’s why throughout this crisis we will combine our substantial pressure on Russia with an open door for diplomacy," he added.
However, the U.S. president said that NATO planes were patrolling the skies over the Baltics, adding that the United States has reinforced its presence in Poland, and was "prepared to do more."
Following a meeting with Obama on Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement: "I welcome the steps that the United States has taken in response to Russia’s reckless and illegal military actions in Ukraine."
"Clearly collective defense of our allies is a core task for NATO and I join you [Obama] in your call for additional measures to enhance our collective defense including updated and further developed defense plans, enhanced exercises, and appropriate deployments," Rasmussen said.
Stating that NATO's commitment to the defense of its allies is unbreakable, Rasmussen declared the organization's support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, adding that it would intensify its military cooperation with Kiev, including helping the country to modernize its armed forces.
As for the organization's relationship with Russia amid preparations for the next summit in the U.K. later this year, Rasmussen said that it would review the 'viability' of their relationship.
"NATO is a force for peace but also unmatched militarily. We do not seek confrontation but we will not waver if challenged," he concluded.
Speaking after an EU-U.S. summit in Brussels earlier on Wednesday European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said that the first priority was to de-escalate the situation.
Van Rompuy said that Russia's support for an OSCE mission in Ukraine was a positive step, as well as the fact that Russia and Ukraine's foreign ministers had finally met describing it as "another sign of more openness."
"However if there is further escalation, we Europeans and Americans are ready to intensify sanctions, with the understanding that sanctions are a means to an end.
The goal is a negotiated solution, in respect of Ukraine's sovereignty and international law," he said.
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