-- Hours after the Ukrainian government and pro-Russia rebels agreed to a ceasefire after five months of fighting, President Obama told reporters at the NATO Summit in Newport, Wales, today that, “Our alliance is fully united in support of Ukraine's sovereignty."
“The U.S. and Europe are finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions across Russia’s banking, energy, and defense sectors," he said.
Obama announced that all NATO allies will provide security assistance to Ukraine, including support and care for Ukrainian troops. Obama reiterated that pro-Russian separatists must keep their commitments, even as European leaders plan to intensify sanctions against the Russian government and its economy.
To apply pressure, Obama said the discussion at NATO and the international community's support of Ukraine has been "a testimony to how seriously people take the basic principle that big countries can't just stomp on little countries."
Obama’s comments come two days after he referred to the Russian advance in Ukraine as a “moment of testing” for the world, a problem that “challenges that most basic of principles of our international system, that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.”
The usual strain in Russian-American relations was taken to an even more international stage this week after Obama visited Estonia in part to reassure the Baltic nations that America’s interests are also theirs, that Russian encroachments on sovereign nations would not evade the attention of Western nations.
“An attack on one is an attack on all, and so if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, ‘Who’ll come to help?’ you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America,” he told a gathering of almost 2,000 Estonians.
On Thursday, Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a display of fraternity.
Obama and Cameron published a joint editorial in the London Times Thursday making clear to Russia the determination of NATO allies in defending one another. Both leaders support a NATO rapid-response force “that could deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice,” something Obama confirmed at his news conference today.
In Mongolia on Thursday, in an act seemingly aimed at responding to the activity in Wales, Russian President Vladimir Putin displayed a notebook on which he wrote a seven-point plan peace plan intended to appeal to the ceasefire negotiations.
Speaking to reporters next to a golf course in Wales this morning, Poroshenko clarified and confirmed today’s ceasefire news. The agreement was settled upon in Minsk, Belarus, where the Ukrainian and pro-Russian camps met to design a truce after suffering more than 2,600 deaths since the fighting began.
On Friday, Obama wasn't shy in taking partial credit for the ceasefire, telling reporters, "I'm very pleased with the kind of work that's been done throughout this crisis in Ukraine, and I think U.S. leadership has been critical throughout that process."