President Barack Obama issued a sweeping warning Wednesday that Russia’s actions in Ukraine threaten to drag the world back towards the “darker forces of the past” that pushed the United States and Europe into the hostilities of the last century.
"I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world," he said during an address at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. "The contest of ideas continues for your generation. That's what's at stake in Ukraine today."
While the president pointedly noted that the ongoing tensions caused by Russia's incursion to Ukraine do not amount to "another Cold War," he suggested that Russia's actions point to a belief in "that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right."
He warned against "casual indifference" to such conflicts, saying that it "would allow the old way of doing things to regain a foothold in this young century."
"The situation does not have easy answers nor a military solution, but at this moment we must meet the challenge to our ideals, to our very international order, with strength and conviction," Obama said.
The president, who gained early public support for his first presidential campaign as one of the most vocal critics of the war in Iraq, said that critics have drawn a false parallel between America's actions there and Russia's annexation of Crimea.
"Even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system," he said. "We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain."
Obama made the remarks in Brussels, Belgium, where he met earlier Wednesday with EU and NATO leaders.