Saying again that Russia's annexation of Crimea and insertion of military forces there violate international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine, President Obama declared Wednesday that while the U.S. and European union stand united, "Russia stands alone" on the world stage because of its actions.
In remarks at a news conference in Brussels following his meetings there with European Union leaders, the president said that Europe's progress in recent decades "rests on basic principles ... including respect for international law and the sovereignty and integrity of nations." Russia, he said, has gone against those principles.
The unity shown by the U.S. and EU nations, which have imposed some sanctions on members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and have been moving to steer financial aid to Ukraine, shows that if Russia's leaders "thought the world wouldn't care about their actions in Ukraine, they clearly miscalculated," Obama added.
Update at 1:40 p.m. ET. NATO Isn't Looking To Keep Russia Down, Obama Says:
Russia's actions "must be met with condemnation," Obama just told another audience in Brussels. But NATO and the U.S., he said, do not seek to "keep Russia down." It's the principles that have led Europe's revival since World War II that "must be lifted up," the president said.
As the crisis in Ukraine has developed over recent weeks, we've tracked developments. Here's a recap:
Crimea has been the focus of attention as the ripple effects of the protests that led to last month's ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have spread.
Summing up the history and importance of Crimea to Russia and Ukraine isn't possible in just a few sentences, of course. The Parallels blog, though, has published several posts that contain considerable context:
Shortly after Yanukovych was deposed and fled Ukraine, Russia moved to take control of Crimea by sending thousands of troops there to secure strategic locations. Along with "local defense forces," those soldiers surrounded Ukrainian military facilities and are now in control of them.
After Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex the region. The U.S. and European Union have objected, calling that action a violation of international law. Putin says he is supporting Crimeans' right to "self-determination."
We've recapped what set off months of protest in Kiev and ultimately led to Yanukovych's dismissal by his nation's parliament last month this way:
"The protests were sparked in part by the president's rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters were also drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption."
It was after Yanukovych left Kiev and headed for the Russian border that troops moved to take control of strategic locations in Crimea.