US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the US would not recognize Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against further incursions into the eastern Europe country.
Obama stood fast on his insistence that Crimea remains a part of Ukraine, even as the fledgling Ukrainian government in Kiev ordered its troops to pull back from the disputed territory.
“We're not recognizing what is happening in Crimea,” Obama said at his first news conference since Russia moved to annex Crimea after a referendum 10 days ago. Obama rejected “the notion that a referendum sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” would “somehow be a valid process.”
Obama said he didn't think international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia is “a done deal.” But he also said, “It would be dishonest to suggest there is a simple solution to what has already taken place in Crimea,” where Russia troops are in control.
“We also are concerned about further encroachment by Russia into Ukraine,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague where world leaders were meeting for an international Nuclear Security Summit.
“I think that will be a bad choice for President Putin to make,” Obama said. “But ultimately he is the president of Russia, and he's the one who's going to be making that decision.”
Obama also said he was concerned about Russia's troop build-up along the Ukrainian border.
“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness.''
Obama said that while the US also has influence over its neighbours, "We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them."
Obama rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russian speakers had been threatened in Crimea and in Ukraine.
"There has been no evidence that Russian speakers have been in any way threatened," Obama said,
"When I hear analogies to Kosovo, where you had thousands of people who were being slaughtered by their government, it's a comparison that makes absolutely no sense," Obama said.
"I think it is important for everybody to be clear and strip away some of the possible excuses for potential Russian action," he said,
Rutte said he could not envision the crisis over Ukraine ending in a military conflict. “I don't think that is likely. I don't think anybody wants it,” the Dutch prime minister said as he stood next to Obama.
Rutte added that the West retains the option to impose more sanctions on Russia if the standoff escalates, and he said that “these sanctions would hit Russia very badly.”
“You can never guarantee that the people in Europe, in Canada, in the US would not be hurt,” Rutte said. “But obviously, we will make sure that we will design these sanctions in such a way that they will have maximum impact on the Russian economy and not on the European, the Canadian, the Japanese or the American economy.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-25