President Obama on Tuesday declared that Russia's military advance into Crimea will backfire by pushing neighboring countries further away from President Vladimir Putin's regime, and he urged Congress to support a $1 billion U.S. aid package to Ukraine.
"There's a suggestion somehow that the Russian actions have been clever strategically," Obama said in response to a question from a reporter during an appearance at Powell Elementary School in Washington to talk about his 2015 budget request. "I actually think that this has not been a sign of strength but rather is a reflection that countries near Russia have deep concerns and suspicions about this kind of meddling."
Obama said he has not spoken to Putin since the weekend, but he emphasized that Secretary of State John F. Kerry is traveling to Kiev to further assess the situation. Current reports that Russian soldiers are actively moving through Crimea show that "what's happening there is not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, but is based on Russia seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country. That is not how international law is supposed to operate," Obama said.
The president said Russia's actions violate international laws, but he conceded that Putin "seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don't think that's fooling anybody."