In a 90-minute phone call with President Putin of Russia, President Obama urged “an immediate effort to initiate a dialogue between Russia and the Ukrainian government, with international facilitation,” and offered participation by the United States. He also called on Russia to “de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.”
In case you missed it, this is foreign policy the Obama way. Talk first. Be calm. Facilitate discussion of differences. Get the international community involved.
According to a read out of the President’s call from the White House press secretary, President Obama urged getting the international community involved in order to address concerns Russia has over the treatment of ethnic and minority populations in Ukraine:
“President Obama told President Putin that, if Russia has concerns about the treatment of ethnic Russian and minority populations in Ukraine, the appropriate way to address them is peacefully through direct engagement with the government of Ukraine and through the dispatch of international observers under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As a member of both organizations, Russia would be able to participate.”
But the President didn’t shy away from calling out the cowboy mentality of Putin, including his violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, “President Obama expressed his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter, and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and which is inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act. The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory.”
The President said the US would be consulting with the UN and other international groups over Russia’s continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He said, “The United States will suspend upcoming participation in preparatory meetings for the G-8. Going forward, Russia’s continued violation of international law will lead to greater political and economic isolation.”
And here is Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell. He recognizes the sovereignty of Ukraine. He works with international groups and allies. He pushes for diplomatic solutions. He urges discussion.
“The people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future. President Obama has directed his Administration to continue working urgently with international partners to provide support for the Ukrainian government, including urgent technical and financial assistance. Going forward, we will continue consulting closely with allies and partners, the Ukrainian government and the International Monetary Fund, to provide the new government with significant assistance to secure financial stability, to support needed reforms, to allow Ukraine to conduct successful elections, and to support Ukraine as it pursues a democratic future.”
Contrast Obama’s talk with Putin with the way John McCain pushed for an escalation with Russia today. McCain’s bomb-bomb-bomb stance reflects the neocons of his party, the war hawks, who even as they beat the war drums against Russia, voted against veterans’ benefits.
War is expensive, and not just in money and resources, but in lives. War is not to be entered into lightly. War is a last resort, not the go-to first response.
Republicans call Obama weak and say he is not drawing a firm line with Russia. They want him to spell his threats out (the opposite of diplomacy, by the way). They pretend foreign policy is static, when in fact it’s dynamic. Republicans want him to be a blundering cowboy. Instead, what we have here is a man of deep thought, who speaks softly, and carries a big stick.
Osama bin Laden could tell Republicans that, but he’s gone now. Taken out at an order by President Obama.