President Barack Obama said Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is not a “sign of strength,” but rather a miscalculation that risks pushing former Soviet bloc nations further from Moscow.
“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 Tuesday of the Russian military’s invasion of Crimea, a section of Ukraine which borders Russia. “And if anything, it will push countries further away from Russia.”
Obama also reasserted that the Russian invasion was against international law, and that Russian President Vladmir Putin must be consulting “a different set of lawyers” to assert otherwise.
“There have been some reports that President Putin is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what's happened. I think we've all seen that from the perspective of the European Union, the United States, allies like Canada and Japan and allies and friends and partners across the world, that there is a strong belief that Russia's action is violating international law,” Obama said in brief remarks at an elementary school in DC where he also unveiled his budget for the next year. “I know that President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don't think that's fooling anybody.”
"So we stand on the side of history that, I think, more and more people around the world deeply believe in, the principle that a sovereign people, an independent people, are able to make their own decisions about their own lives," he added. "And, you know, Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he is not abiding by that principle."
Obama said that he met again on Tuesday with his National Security Council to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where Secretary of State John Kerry also traveled on Tuesday. The president also encouraged Congress to act swiftly to approve an aid package headlined by $1 billion in loan guarantees to help stabilize the Ukranian economy in the coming months as it prepares for new, democratic elections this May.
The president also said he anticipates consulting with other foreign leaders and allies throughout the week and into the weekend in hopes of de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine.
“I think everybody recognizes that, although that Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state,” Obama said.