Obama Addresses Russian Threat: Borders Cannot Be Redrawn by Force

The president's speech in Brussels makes clear his position to recent actions in Crimea by Vladimir Putin.
3:00 | 03/26/14

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Transcript for Obama Addresses Russian Threat: Borders Cannot Be Redrawn by Force
For this special group. I'm Michelle Franzen in New York this is an ABC news digital special report. President Obama is in Brussels today where he is -- European powers to join the US. In an economic -- -- Vladimir Putin's Russia. As he warned earlier today the pain could spill over into the global economy. Go to Brussels palace of fine arts -- President Obama is -- dispute. A -- Please have a seat. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- long. -- -- -- -- Thank you laurel for that remarkable introduction on. Before she came out she told me not to be nervous. And I can only imagine I think her father is in the audience and I can only imagine how proud he is occur. We're grateful for her work but she's also reminding us. That our future will be defined. By young people like her. -- -- Mr. prime minister. And the people of Belgium. On behalf of the American people we are grateful for your friendship. We stand together as inseparable allies. And I thank you for your wonderful hospitality. I have to admit it is easy to love a country famous for chocolate and beer. Leaders and dignitaries of the European Union. Representatives of our NATO alliance. Distinguished guests. We -- here at a moment. For Europe and the United States. And for the international order that we have worked for generations to build. Throughout human history societies have grappled. With fundamental questions of how to organize themselves. The proper relationship between the individual -- mistake. The best means to resolve. Inevitable conflicts between states. And it was here in Europe. Through centuries of struggle -- war and enlightenment. Repression. And revolution. That a particular. Set of ideals began to emerge. The belief that. Two conscience and free will each of us have the right to live as we choose. The belief that power is -- derived. From the consent of the governed. And the laws and institutions should be established to protect. That understand. Those ideas eventually inspired a band of colonialists. Across an ocean. And they -- them into the founding documents. We've still got America today. Including the simple truth that all men. And women. Are created it. Those ideals have also been tested. Here in Europe and around the world. Those ideals have often been threatened. By an older. More traditional -- of power. There's alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women. Are too small minded to govern their own affairs. That order and progress can only come when individuals surrender of their rights to an all powerful sovereign. Often this alternative vision -- itself in the notion. The by virtue of race. Or faith for a mess of it some are inherently superior to others. And that individual identity must be defined by. Us. Vs them. Or that national greatness must flow. Not by what people stand for but what they are against. And so many ways the history of Europe in the twentieth century represented the ongoing clash. Of these two sets of ideas. Both within nations and among nations. The advance of industry and technology. Outpace our ability to resolve our differences peacefully. And evening even among. The most. Civilized of society's on the surface we saw a descent. In the -- This morning at Flanders field I was reminded of how. War between peoples sent a generation to their deaths in the trenches. And yes but the first world war. Just two decades later. Extreme nationalism -- this continent -- to war once again with populations enslaved and great cities reduced to rubble. And tens of millions slaughtered. Including those lost in the Holocaust. It is in response to this tragic history. That in the aftermath of World War II America join -- Europe to reject. The darker forces of the past. And build a new architecture of peace. Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall plan. Sentinels stood vigilant in the NATO alliance that would become the strongest the world has ever known. And across the Atlantic. We embraced a shared vision of Europe. Vision based on representative democracy. Individual rights. And a belief. That nations could meet the interest of their citizens through trade and open markets. A social safety net. Respect for the -- of different faiths and backgrounds. For decades this vision stood in sharp contrast to life. On the other side of an iron curtain. For decades a contest was wage. And ultimately that contest was one. Not by tanks or missiles. But because our ideals stirred the hearts of Hungarians who sparked a revolution. Polls and there shipyards and stood in solidarity. Czechs who waged a velvet revolution without firing a shot. And east berliners who marched past the guards. And finally tore down that wall. Today. What would -- seemed impossible in the trenches of Flanders. The rubble of Berlin. A dissidents prison cell. That reality is taken for granted. A Germany unified. The nations of central and Eastern Europe welcomed into the family of democracy us. Here in this country wants the battleground of Europe. We me in the hub of a union that brings together age old adversaries in peace and cooperation. The people of Europe. Hundreds of millions of citizens east west north south are more secure and more prosperous. Because we stood together for the ideals. We share. And the story of human progress was by no means limited to your. Indeed -- the ideals that came to define our alliance also inspired movements. Across the global. Among those very people ironically who would too often been denied their full rights by western powers. After the Second World War people from Africa to India to off the yoke of colonialism to secure their independence. In the United States citizens. To freedom -- And endured beatings to put an end to segregation and the secure their civil rights. As the iron curtain fell here and you're the iron fist of -- -- was on clinched. And Nelson Mandela emerged up right. To lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and build new democracies. And Asian nations showed the development and democracy. Could go hand in hand. Young people in the audience today young people like Laura -- were born in a place in a time. Where there is less conflict. More prosperity. And more freedom than any time in human history. But that's not because man's darkest impulses have vanished. Even here in Europe. We've seen ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that shocked the conscience. The difficulties of integration and globalization. Recently amplified by the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Strained and the European project. And stir the rise of the politics that. Too often targets immigrants. Or gays or those who some seem somehow different. While technologies opened up vast opportunities for trade and innovation and cultural understanding. It's also allow terrorists to kill on a horrifying scare. Around the world sectarian warfare and ethnic conflicts continue to claim thousands of lives. And once again we are confronted -- the belief among some bit bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way. That recycled maximum. Might somehow makes right. So 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. Because the contest of ideas continues. For your generation. And that's what's at stake. In Ukraine to that. Russia's leadership is challenging truce but only a few weeks ago seems self evident. That in the 21 century. The borders of Europe cannot be re drawn would force. The international law matters. The people and nations can make their own decisions about their future. To be honest it if we define our -- Our interest narrowly. If we applied -- -- hearted calculus. We might decide to look the other way. Our economy is not deeply integrated with the Ukraine's. Our people and our homeland faced no direct threat from the invasion of Crimea. Our -- borders are not threatened by Russia's annexation. But that kind of casual indifference. Would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemetery is of this company. It would allow the old way of doing things. To regain a foothold in this young century. And that message would be hurt not just in Europe. But an Asian in the Americans. In Africa and the Middle East. And the consequences that would arise from complacency are not. Abstractions. The impact. That they have on the lives of real people men. And women just like us. Have to enter into our imaginations. Just look at the young people of Ukraine. Who were determined to take back their future from a government rotted by corruption. The portraits of the fall and shot by snipers. The visitors who pay their respects at the made up. There was the university student -- in the Ukrainian flag expressing her hope that. Every country should live by the law. A postgraduate students speaking of her fellow protesters. Saying I want these people were here to have dignity. Imagine that you are the young woman who said. There are some things that -- Police -- and tear gas cannot destroy. We've never met these people. But we know them. Their voices echo calls for human dignity that rang out. In European streets and squares for generations. Their voices echoed those around the world. Who at this very moment fight for the dignity. He's ukrainians -- rejected a government that was stealing from the people instead of serving them. And are reaching for the same ideals that allow us to be here today. None of us can know for certain. What the coming days will bring in Ukraine. But I am confident. That eventually. Those voices. Those voices for human dignity and opportunity and individual rights and rule of law. Those voices ultimately will triumph. I believe -- over the long haul. As nations. There are free as free people the future is ours. I believe this. Not because us I'm -- you. And I believe this not because of the strength of our arms or the size of our economies I believe this because -- These ideals that we affirm. Our true. These ideals are universal. Yes we believe in democracy. With elections that are free and fair. And independent judiciary is an opposition parties. Civil society. And on censored information -- that individuals can make their own choices. Yes we believe in open economies based on. Free markets and innovation and individual initiative and -- -- And trade and investment that -- a broader prosperity. And yes we believe in human dignity. That every person has created equal no matter who you are what you look like or who you love or were you come from. That is what we believe. That's what makes us strong. And our enduring strength is also reflected. In our respect for an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people. -- United Nations and at universal declaration of human rights. International law and the means to enforce. Those -- But we also know that those rules are not -- -- secured. They depend on people and nations of goodwill continually affirming them. And that's why -- violation of international law. Its assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must. Be met with condemnation. Not because we're trying to keep Russia down. But because the principals met -- meant so much to Europe and the world. Must be lifted up. Over the last several days the United States Europe and our partners around the world. Have been united in defense of these ideals. And united in support of the Ukrainian people. Together we've condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And rejected the legitimacy. Of the crime in referendum. Together we have isolated Russia political suspending it from the G-8 nations. And downgrading our bilateral -- us. Together we are imposing cost through sanctions that have left a mark on. Russia and those accountable for its actions. And if the Russian leadership stays on its current course. Together. We will ensure that this isolation deepens. Sanctions will expand. And the -- on Russia's economy as well as its standing in the world. Will only increase. Meanwhile the United States and our allies. We'll continue to support the government of Ukraine as they chart a democratic course. Together we are gonna provide a significant package of assistance -- can help stabilize the Ukrainian economy. And meet the basic needs of the people. Make no mistake neither the United States. Nor Europe has any interest in controlling Ukraine. We have sent no troops there. What we want -- for the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions. Just like. Other free people around the world. Understand as well this is not another Cold War there were entering and -- After all unlike the Soviet Union Russia. -- -- bloc of nations. No global ideology. The United States. And NATO do not seek any conflict -- Russian. In fact for more than sixty years we have come together in NATO. Not to claim other lands but to keep nations free. What we will do. Always. Is uphold our solemn obligation. -- article five duty to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our allies. And in that promise we will never -- They donations never stand -- Today NATO planes patrol the skies over the baltics. And we reinforced our presence and Paul. And were prepared to do more. Going forward every NATO member state must step up and carry its share of the -- We're showing -- political -- to invest in our collective defense. And by developing the capabilities to serve as a source of international peace and security. Of course Ukraine is not a member of NATO. In part because of its close complex history with Russian. Nor will Russia be dislodged. From Crimea or deterred. From further escalation by military force. But with time. So long as we remain united. The Russian people will recognize the -- cannot achieve security. Prosperity and the status that they see through brute force. That's why throughout this crisis we won't combine our substantial pressure on Russia. With an open door for diplomacy. I believe -- for both Ukraine and Russia. A stable peace will come through. Direct dialogue between Russia and the government of Ukraine and the international community. Monitors who can ensure that the rights of all ukrainians are protected. A process of constitutional reform within Ukraine. And free and fair elections the -- So far Russia has resisted diplomatic overtures. Addicts and Crimea and massing large forces. Along Ukraine's border. -- is justified these actions is an effort to prevent problems on its own borders. And to protect ethnic Russians inside Ukraine. Of course there is no evidence. Never have spent. Systemic violence against. Ethnic Russians inside of Ukraine. Moreover many countries around the world faced similar questions about their borders and ethnic minorities abroad. About sovereignty and self determination. These -- tensions that have led. In other places to debate and democratic referendums. Complex. And uneasy coexistence. These are difficult issues and it is precisely because these questions are hard. That they must be addressed through constitutional means and international -- So -- majorities cannot simply suppress minorities. And big countries cannot simply bully the small. In defending its actions Russian leaders. Have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent. An example they say of the west interfering in the affairs of the smaller country this is there are doing now. But they don't only intervene after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed. Four years. And Kosovo only left Serbia after -- referendum was organized. Not outside the boundaries of international law but in careful cooperation with the United Nations. And with Kosovo's neighbors. None of that. Even came close to happening in -- More Russia. As pointed to America's decision to go into Iraq as an example of western hypocrisy. It is true that the Iraq War was -- subject of vigorous debate. I just around the world but in the United States as well. I participated -- debate. -- -- -- -- Military intervention there. But even. You know Iraq America sought to work. Within the international system we did not claim. Or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own game. Instead we ended our war. And left Iraq to its people and -- fully sovereign Iraqi state. That can make decisions about its own future. Of course neither the United States nor Europe. Are perfect in adherence to our ideals. Nor do we claimed to be the sole arbiter of what is right or wrong in the world. We are human after all. And we face difficult decisions. About how to exercise our power. But part of what makes us different is that we welcome criticism. Just as we welcome the responsibilities. That come up with global leadership. We look to the east in the south and -- nations poised to play a growing role on the world stage and we consider that a good thing. It reflects the same diversity that makes us stronger as a nation. And the forces of integration and cooperation that Europe has advanced for decades. And in a world of challenges there are increasingly global all of us have an interest in nations stepping forward to play their part. To bear their share of the burden. And to uphold international norms. So our approach stands in stark contrast. To be arguments coming out of Russia these days. It is absurd. To suggest. There's a steady drumbeat of Russian -- do that America is somehow conspiring with fascists inside of Ukraine. For failing to respect the Russian people. My grandfather served in patton's army. -- -- many of your fathers and grandfathers fought against fascism. We Americans remember well the unimaginable sacrifices made by the Russian people in World War II. And we have honored those sacrifices. Since the end of the Cold War we have worked with Russia under successive administrations. To build ties of culture and commerce. An international community. Out of the favored Russia but because of what's in our national interests. And together we've secured nuclear materials from terrorists. We welcomed Russian of the G-8 and the World Trade Organization. From the reduction of nuclear arms to the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. We believe the world has benefited when Russia chooses to cooperate on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. So America and the world. And Europe. Has an interest in a strong and responsible Russia. Not a -- one. We want the Russian people to live in security prosperity and dignity like everyone else proud of their own history. But that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors. Just because Russia has a deep history -- Ukraine does not mean. It should be able to dictate Ukraine's future. No amount of propaganda can make right. Something that the world knows is wrong. And in the end. Every society must chart its own course. America's path. -- Europe's path. Does not the only. Ways to reach freedom and justice. But on the fundamental. Principle that is at stake here. The ability of nations and peoples to make their own choices. There can be no going back. It's not America but to all the made -- -- protesters. It was ukrainians. No foreign forces compelled the citizens of tunis and Tripoli. Arrives out. He did so on their home. From the Burmese parliamentarian. Pursuing reform. To -- young leaders fighting corruption and intolerance and Africa. We see something -- -- new Sobel. That all of us share as human -- A truth that will persevere in the face of violence. And repression. And what ultimately overcome. For the young people here today said. I -- it may seem easy to see these events as removed. From our lives. Remote from -- routines. Distant from concerns closer to home. I recognize that both. In the United States. And in much of Europe there's more than enough to worry about. In the affairs of our own comforts. There will always be voices who say that what happens in the wider world is not our concern. Nor responsibility. But we must never forget. So we are here -- to a struggle for freedom. Our democracy. Our individual opportunity only exist because those who came before us have the wisdom and the courage. To recognize that our ideals will only -- if we see our self interest in the success of other people's and other nations. Now is not the time for bluster. The situation in Ukraine and by crises in many parts of the world. Does not have easy answers. Nor a military solution. But at this moment. We must meet the challenge. To our ideals. -- are very international order with strength. And conviction. And it is you. Young people. Of your. Young people like -- Who will help decide which way. The currents of our history will flow. Do not think for a moment. That your own freedom. Your own prosperity either that your own moral imagination is bound. By the limits. Of your community. Or ethnicity. Or even your country. The bigger than that. You can help. Us to choose a better history. That's what Europe tells us. That's what the American experience is all about. I say this as the president of a country that look to Europe for the values that are written into our founding documents and which. Spilled blood to ensure that those values could endure. On these shores. I also saying this as the son of a Kenyan. Whose grandfather was -- -- for the British. And as a person who once lived in Indonesia as it emerged from colonialism. The ideals that unite us matter -- it. To the young people of Boston. Or Brussels. Or Jakarta. We're Nairobi. -- -- Our kids. In the end the success of our ideals comes down to us. Including the example of our own lives our own societies. We know that there will always be intolerance but instead of -- -- immigrant. We can welcome. We can insist on policies that benefit the many not just a few. That an age of globalization and dizzying change opens the door of opportunity. To the marginalized and not just a privileged few. Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian Brothers and sisters we can use our laws to protect the rights. Instead of defining ourselves in opposition to others we can -- the aspirations that we hold in common. That's what will make America strong that's what will make. Europe strong that's what makes us who we are. And just as we meet our responsibilities and individuals. We must be prepared to meet them as nations. Because we live in a world in which our ideals are going to be challenged. Again and again. -- forces that would drag us back in the conflict. Or corruption. We can't count on others to rise to -- those tests. The policies of your government. The principles of your European Union. Will make a critical difference in whether or not. The international order that so many generations before you have strived. To create continues to move forward or whether -- retreats. That's the question. We -- must answer. What -- of Europe. What kind of America. -- kind of world. We leave behind. And I believe that if we hold firm to our principles. And are willing to back our beliefs with courage and result. That hope will ultimately overcome fear. And freedom will continue the triumph. Over terror. Because that is what -- -- In the human heart. Thank you very much. President Obama speaking to. Crowd at the palace of fine arts in Brussels Belgium. I'm joined now from Washington by White House correspondent to -- in New York City by NBC news political threat. After Rick Klein Jim anything new in today's speech something that might suggest progress in -- uniting European leaders against Russia. Well this was a pep talk to the European Union. And that's an effort by the -- to get to the European Union to back sanctions to continue the pressure on Russia. And also to fund NATO for any kind of buildup in Atlanta must be by the -- the NATO alliance as well he said that. That in fact that they -- more planes over the baltics now and that there was an increased presence in Poland and that every NATO nation. Must invest in the collective defense of Europe. So was really calling upon Europe at this time to look at its history of freedom and democracy. And use that as both. A moral. Sword against Russia. And also. Calling on -- two. Make sure. That in fact the NATO forces are ready to defend if Russia does not stop. Was there any hope in this speech that there is. It's gonna be some kind of pullback by Russia no there was not in fact the president acknowledged that no military action will be used by the United States or NATO. Two -- -- Crimea. And that there are no efforts at this point. Two use military force. Two. To push back against Russia this is at this point. Right now the United States is asking NATO to use. Their moral club and also. Their financial club to make sure the Russian knows that the U that the European Europe and the NATO alliance. His firm a speech at a trip trying to unite Rick the European leaders we've heard from. Have all backed President Obama but do these sanctions matched the tough talk are -- putting real pressure. On Russia. That's all they've got right now if this was -- pretty stark acknowledgment by the president that Crimea is essentially gone that is not going to be a solution. Because we're not gonna use military force -- he acknowledged that again today. To try to do anything about it this is about fighting the next battle and into that and I think this is an eloquent. Distillation of the last century of European history talking about the particular challenges that were overcome by Europe essentially saying what Putin is doing now that's what we are supposed to have close the book on in the last century. And that's the hope is he can get at least the -- unite around that but Jim is right you're talking about financial clubs. You're talking about moral clubs you're not talking about physical -- and that's what the other side is used here that's what food -- -- and that's the real threat here if food goes any further but the headline is that. The president acknowledges that there's nothing that can be done about Crimea all he can hope for is that -- isn't gonna go do that again. Well Jim let's talk a little bit about that economic club how much to these countries especially the British banks rely on Russian investment money. To keep up their profits and how hard is Russia hit with those sanctions. Well the president acknowledged that this is not the easy way out in fact he said. That the cold calculating way to do this would be to look away now because there are no. A European nations other than Ukraine. That aren't there were no NATO nations that are directly threatened right now and the united -- United States is not directly threatened by Russia. -- all at this point so. What he's saying right now that that that the easy way would be to walk away but by by imposing the sanctions were hurting ourselves as well as Russia. And in fact the European economy the good the global economy. Will be affected by sanctions that hurt the Russian economy because were also intertwined. So this will be painful. Hopefully. The administration believes more painful for Russia than it is for the United States or Europe but -- the president making the point that if Russia continues. They will continue that they will continue to be isolated and the isolation will deepen. And Rick -- European countries are so dependent on the Russian imports -- what strategies -- that US and EU leaders discussing. As a means of easing the effects of these sanctions. I think is about Europe trying to come together economically on this because a good portion of Eastern Europe depends on trades. With Russia some of those would be the most threatened potentially militarily as well but that's exactly it is that it is going to take backbone -- inside Europe. To say we're going to stick to these sanctions it's not so easy to say that once you realize that the territory is -- once you realize that immediate challenges beyond. Is -- that a long time because of the financial. Integration and not just the inaccuracies in Europe also -- the London banks and throughout Europe there's a lot of dependence on trade with Russia a lot of dependence on that Russian capital with its overseas so I think that's why the president was trying to stir this particulars. Flame. Inside of Europe and the reminder about what -- the last century of bloodshed in across -- continent has is meant. Is that this is going to be a tough -- and that there is not going to be easy answer is not going to be. Easy results as Jim said. Giving noting that the easy way to do this would be to look away. You know maybe that did the other easy way to deal with this and not to recommend this and obviously no -- talking about this would be through military force and as he says. There's not going to be. Any any effort here to it to annexed territory this is we're standing up now for moral principles as a lot harder when it comes down to -- when it comes down to dollars and cents. Gemma wanna -- two -- SoundBite from the Ukrainian prime minister I want his country is doing and what it needs to keep. Russia at that. What we are doing today is we tried to maintain the capability. -- Ukrainian military to fight. We've made a number of steps in order to -- Pretty bad the newly tree. To defend Ukrainian territory but in any case what we need we need to support from the international community and we need technical -- for support. To -- will hold the Ukrainian military to modernize it. -- is the prime minister getting that support. Well he's not giving military supporting fact I saw today from the White House. On the laundry list of things were being done that we send over thousands of MRE's meals lady. So far to the so far to the Ukrainian military that's about the extent of the support we're giving. -- Ukraine. The Ukraine. Pulled out what he was talking about there as it pulled out of the military pulled out of Crimea. There really wasn't much they could do in fact there were pictures of crime of Ukrainian soldiers carrying out boxes of of their own personal belongings including a potted plant in one piece of video. Coming out of their bases. They recognize that they cannot stand up. To Russia alone and if Russia decides. To invade. To it to invade Ukraine. It would be a short and and very. Easy a war -- would be probably not much different than what would happen with Crimea. That is. And an -- and it doesn't appear -- of the United States is willing. Two. Intervene militarily even if Russia were to continue to move. Toward the west and through -- Ukraine. It looks to me like the red lines that are being drawn. -- in Poland. And in the Baltic States if Russia turned to those places. To regain its influence in Poland and to regain its territory. In the Baltic States I think you might see a different. A tone from the United States more militarily. And Rick with all -- focus on -- us secretary of state John Kerry has quietly arrived in the Middle East is anyone out there expecting him to make real progress. With the peace process. I don't think this is the moment of we're gonna have Middle East peace however this has been an issue. Not far from the front burner for a long time the secretary of state knowing that there's that the glimmer of hope here and he's been quite. We're not ready and willing to get on a plane at a moment's notice the -- detect any opportunity. Any possibility here I don't get the sense there's anything in in this situation in Russia and Ukraine it's made it more likely that he's in the -- on its own time -- A little bit overshadowed recently but prime minister Netanyahu and prime minister Abbas. Both at the White House at the last couple weeks meeting with president Obama's they're hoping that even as you have have a worsening situation in one part of the world that you can take advantage of any glimmer somewhere else. Rick Klein from New York to -- Washington thank you both. Keep up with the president. Four and -- -- in real time by downloading the ABC news app and -- and this story for exclusive updates on the ago. This has been an ABC news digital special report on Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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