Obama says next step in Ukraine is for ‘Russia to move back those troops’

March 28, 2014

"CBS This Morning" aired an interview with President Obama Friday, where he discussed what's next for Ukraine and the United States's deliberations with Russia.

Obama told reporter Scott Pelley, "What we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government, as well as the international community."

 

Obama also said he rejects "the notion that there is a sphere of influence along the Russian border that then justifies Russia invading other countries. Certainly they're gonna have influence because of trade and tradition and language and heritage with Ukraine. Everybody acknowledges that. But there's a difference between that and sending in troops because you're bigger and stronger — taking a piece of the country. That is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century."

Ukraine completed a deal with the International Monetary Fund this week that could lead to $18 billion in loans. The U.N. General Assembly also voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution declaring Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegitimate. The U.S. Congress is also expected to approve an aid package for Ukraine this week.


In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets President Obama during an official welcome of G20 heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations at the G20 summit on Sept. 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg. (Photo by Guneev Sergey/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

When asked what Putin is looking to gain from his actions in the Crimea, the president sighed, and said the Russian president has "a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union. You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there'd be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War."

"He's said that he considers the breakup of the Soviet Union to be tragic. I think there's a strong sense of Russian nationalism and a sense that somehow the West has taken advantage of Russia in the past. And that he wants to, in some fashion, reverse that or make up for that."

Obama went on to say that Putin "may be entirely misreading the West. He's certainly misreading American foreign policy. We have no interest in encircling Russia, and we have no interest in Ukraine beyond letting the Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives."

CBS News also released a poll Friday showing that 46 percent of Americans disapprove of how President Obama has handled the situation in Crimea, while 38 percent approve. However, when these respondents were asked about their approval of the specific steps the United States has taken in Ukraine, approval jumps. Partisanship and midterm malaise likely plays a larger role in the numbers than actual approval.

Obama is in Europe this week. He met Pope Francis for the first time Thursday in Vatican City. Earlier in the week, the president met with European Union and NATO officials in Brussels. Friday, President Obama is heading to Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with King Abdullah, the third official visit during the president's time in office. Iran is likely to be one of their chief issues to discuss.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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Ed O'Keefe · March 28, 2014