US President Barack Obama said after a US-EU summit in Brussels on Wednesday that Russia stood "alone" on the Crimea crisis and urged Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian energy, a move that would further isolate Moscow.
It was the US leader's first-ever visit to the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels.
Speaking at a lunch summit with top officials, including European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Obama said the world “is safer and more just when Europe and America stand as one".
Obama said that Russia, in contrast, increasingly "stands alone" on the international stage.
If Moscow thought that it could drive a "wedge" between Washington and Europe – which relies heavily on Russian energy – it had clearly "miscalculated", Obama said.
"Russia's actions in Ukraine aren't just about one country," Obama told a packed news conference after the luncheon. "They are about the kind of Europe and the kind of world that we live in."
He warned that Europe and the United States could not react with "casual indifference" to Russia's annexation of Crimea, despite having little vested interest in the future of the Black Sea peninsula.
"Russia's leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident," Obama said. "That in the twenty-first century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force. That international law matters. That people and nations can make their own decisions about their future."
Obama said that recent events in Ukraine had highlighted Europe's dependency on Russia and the need for European nations to diversify their energy sources, partly with natural gas from the United States.
The EU relies on Russia for about a third of its oil and gas, and tensions with Moscow have heightened concerns among its 28 members about the security of their energy supplies. Some 40 percent of that gas is shipped through Ukraine.
Obama said concluding a new transatlantic trade pact, now under negotiation, would make it easier for Washington to licence more gas exports.
The EU has wasted no time in moving to capitalise on the possibility of a new transatlantic energy deal.
“We've asked the president to consider increasing the rhythm and scope of authorisations for export'' of gas, said Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU ambassador to Washington.
"Once we have a trade agreement in place, export licences for projects for liquefied natural gas destined to Europe would be much easier, something that is obviously relevant in today's geopolitical environment," Obama told the news conference.
But Obama made it clear that increased US imports would not solve Europe’s energy problem, urging EU nations to take the politically difficult steps needed to "further diversify" their energy resources.
“Europe, collectively, has to examine its energy policies,” he said.
Obama, who was to meet later in Brussels with outgoing NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, also expressed that he had "some concern about a diminished level of defence spending" among some members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
"The situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn't free," Obama said, adding: "We have to be willing to pay" to ensure the maintenance of a common "deterrent" force.
Washington's share in NATO spending rose five points to reach a 73 percent share between 2007 and 2013.
Obama, who arrived in Brussels after a nuclear security summit in The Hague, remained in the EU capital for less than 24 hours before heading for Italy, his next stop on a six-day European tour.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS and AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-26