President Obama used a speech on Wednesday from Brussels to encourage Europeans to support additional economic sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea earlier this month and urged Western European leaders to expand their military security commitment along the borders of Europe.
Russia’s recent invasion of Crimea in southern Ukraine and troop buildup along the border of Russia and eastern Ukraine has rekindled fears that Russia is planning to redraw the borders of Europe and increase Moscow’s reach into Ukraine following a new leadership change in Kiev last month that witnessed changing allegiances and closer ties with the West.
Russia is now believed to be sending in closer to 30,000 troops along the Russia-eastern Ukraine border which is 10,000 higher than the 20,000 estimate from last week, according to various Western sources.
On Wednesday, Obama beckoned for U.S. and European unity when confronting a resurgent Russia that has shown little willingness to back down under the threat of sanctions and appears undeterred to stop its territorial land grab under the pretext of “protecting ethnic Russians” from perceived threats.
“Now is not the time for bluster. The situation in Ukraine, like crises in many parts of the world, does not have easy answers, nor a military solution” Obama said.
“But at this moment, we must meet the challenge to our ideals — to our very international order — with strength and conviction” Obama continued.
Obama spoke about the importance of supporting an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people — a United Nations and a Universal Declaration of Human Rights while also pointing out that Russia has violated international laws in the case of Ukraine.
“But we also know that those rules are not self-executing; they depend on people and nations of goodwill continually affirming them. And that’s why Russia’s violation of international law — its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity — must be met with condemnation. Not because we’re trying to keep Russia down, but because the principles that have meant so much to Europe and the world must be lifted up” Obama said.
European politicians reacted by agreeing to take measures in the future to lower their reliance on Russian natural gas and work to revamp NATO’S position towards security issues.
Obama rose to power on a political platform that departed heavily from the foreign policies of President Bush who did not hesitate to deploy U.S. troops into battlefields even when U.S. security interests were not immediately in jeopardy.
As a presidential candidate, Obama’s foreign policy views ultimately resonated with American public disenchantment over sending in large numbers of American troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since Obama took over in the White House, he has followed through with his commitment to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan while he relies on diplomacy and geopolitical alliances to settle conflicts.
His foreign policies in Syria, Iran, and North Africa have displayed reluctance to re-assert American military power to solve complicated ethnic and political crises.
In the past two years, Obama has been faced with growing pressure to lower the federal budget and reduce military spending.
Under the Obama administration, the number of American troops in the military have been declining as his administration relies on different military mindset through the leadership of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that includes deploying technology (E.G. drones) and special forces to achieve military goals rather than maintaining outdated and costly military models such as solving military conflicts by simply adding large number of troops and huge swaths of armor into a conflicted region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is aware of the foreign policy shift that has occurred in the White House under the Obama administration and has capitalized on America’s reluctance to utilize strength through military force.
Putin also realizes that Russia still gets support from ethnic Russians in Crimea and parts of Eastern Europe that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
Although Putin knows that economic sanctions and capital flight out of Russia can truly damage his oil dependent economy, he understands that much of Europe still depends on Russian natural gas and have economies that are vulnerable if economic sanctions are fully implemented.