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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
_________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                       July 29, 2014

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
ON UKRAINE

South Lawn

3:39 P.M. EDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.

     In the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, and countries around the world, families are still in shock over the sudden and tragic loss of nearly 300 loved ones senselessly killed when their civilian airliner was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  These grieving families and their nations are our friends and our allies.  And amid our prayers and our outrage, the United States continues to do everything in our power to help bring home their loved ones, support the international investigation, and make sure justice is done.

     Since the shoot-down, however, Russia and its proxies in Ukraine have failed to cooperate with the investigation and to take the opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.  These Russian-backed separatists have continued to interfere in the crash investigation and to tamper with the evidence.  They have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region.  And because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day.

     Meanwhile, Russia continues to support the separatists and encourage them, and train them, and arm them.  Satellite images, along with information we've declassified in recent days, show that forces inside Russia have launched artillery strikes into Ukraine -- another major violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.  And we have information that Russia continues to build up its own forces near the Ukrainian border and that more Russian military equipment, including artillery, armored vehicles, and air defense equipment, has been transferred across the border to these separatists.

     Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has worked to build a strong international coalition to support Ukraine, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, its right to determine its own destiny, and to increase the pressure on Russia for actions that have undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ability to make its own decisions.  The core of that coalition is the United States and our European allies.

In recent days, I've continued to coordinate closely with our allies and our partners to ensure a unified response to the shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and Russia’s continued arming of the separatists.  And I've spoken several times with Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Abbott of Australia.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy. We are united in our view that the situation in Ukraine ought to be resolved diplomatically and that a sovereign, independent Ukraine is no threat to Russian interests.  But we've also made it clear, as I have many times, that if Russia continues on its current path, the cost on Russia will continue to grow.  And today is a reminder that the United States means what it says.  And we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world.

Today, and building on the measures we announced two weeks ago, the United States is imposing new sanctions in key sectors of the Russian economy:  energy, arms, and finance.  We’re blocking the exports of specific goods and technologies to the Russian energy sector.  We’re expanding our sanctions to more Russian banks and defense companies.  And we’re formally suspending credit that encourages exports to Russia and financing for economic development projects in Russia.

At the same time, the European Union is joining us in imposing major sanctions on Russia -- its most significant and wide-ranging sanctions to date.  In the financial sector, the EU is cutting off certain financing to state-owned banks in Russia. In the energy sector, the EU will stop exporting specific goods and technologies to Russia, which will make it more difficult for Russia to develop its oil resources over the long term.  In the defense sector, the EU is prohibiting new arms imports and exports and is halting the export of sensitive technology to Russia’s military users.

And because we’re closely coordinating our actions with Europe, the sanctions we’re announcing today will have an even bigger bite.

Now, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the sanctions that we’ve already imposed have made a weak Russian economy even weaker.  Foreign investors already are increasingly staying away. Even before our actions today, nearly $100 billion in capital was expected to flee Russia.  Russia’s energy, financial, and defense sectors are feeling the pain.  Projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero.  The major sanctions we’re announcing today will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Russia, including the cronies and companies that are supporting Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine.

In other words, today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress.  And it doesn’t have to come to this -- it didn’t have to come to this.  It does not have to be this way.  This is a choice that Russia, and President Putin in particular, has made. There continues to be a better choice -- the choice of de-escalation, the choice of joining the world in a diplomatic solution to this situation, a choice in which Russia recognizes that it can be a good neighbor and trading partner with Ukraine even as Ukraine is also developing ties with Europe and other parts of the world.

I’m going to continue to engage President Putin as well as President Poroshenko and our European partners in pursuit of such a diplomatic solution.  But it is important for Russia to understand that, meanwhile, we will continue to support the people of Ukraine, who have elected a new President, who have deepened their ties with Europe and the United States, and that the path for a peaceful resolution to this crisis involves recognizing the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and the independence of the Ukrainian people.

Today, the people of Ukraine I hope are seeing once again that the United States keeps its word.  We’re going to continue to lead the international community in our support for the Ukrainian people, and for the peace, the security, and the freedom that they very richly deserve.

     Thanks very much.

     Q    Is this a new Cold War, sir?

     THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s not a new Cold War.  What it is, is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.

And I think that if you listen to President Poroshenko, if you listen to the Ukrainian people, they’ve consistently said they seek good relations with Russia.  What they can't accept is Russia arming separatists who are carrying out terribly destructive activities inside of Ukraine, thereby undermining the ability of Ukraine to govern itself peacefully.  That's something that no country should have to accept.

     And the sooner the Russians recognize that the best chance for them to have influence inside of Ukraine is by being good neighbors and maintaining trade and commerce, rather than trying to dictate what the Ukrainian people can aspire to, rendering Ukraine a vassal state to Russia -- the sooner that President Putin and Russia recognizes that, the sooner we can resolve this crisis in ways that doesn't result in the tragic loss of life that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine.

     Q    So far sanctions haven’t stopped Vladimir Putin.  Are sanctions going to be enough?  And are you considering lethal aid for Ukraine?

     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind, the issue at this point is not the Ukrainian capacity to outfight separatists.  They are better armed than the separatists.  The issue is how do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.  We’re trying to avoid that.  And the main tool that we have to influence Russian behavior at this point is the impact that it’s having on its economy.

     The fact that we’ve seen Europeans who have real, legitimate economic concerns in severing certain ties with Russia stepping up the way they have today I think is an indication of both the waning patience that Europe has with nice words from President Putin that are not matched by actions, but also a recognition as a consequence of what happened with the Malaysian Airlines flight that it is hard to avoid the spillover of what’s happening in Ukraine impacting Europeans across the board.

     And so we think that the combination of stronger U.S. and European sanctions is going to have a greater impact on the Russian economy than we’ve seen so far.  Obviously, we can't in the end make President Putin see more clearly.  Ultimately that's something that President Putin has to do by -- on his own.  But what we can do is make sure that we’ve increased the costs for actions that I think are not only destructive to Ukraine but ultimately are going to be destructive to Russia, as well.

     All right.  Guys, I’ve got to get going.

END           3:49 P.M. EDT

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Comment Preferences

  •  I encourage everyone to read... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    limpidglass, Alhambra, LanceBoyle

    I encourage everyone to read the statement of a number of retired analysts on this topic.

    Given the quality of proof the Administration has presented, the level of rhetoric is way too high. The Administration has imputed motives to the Russians and to the rebels that are not evident to an impartial observer.  Obama's statement has portions that are deceptive, notably the statement, "They [rebels] have continued to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in the region.  And because of their actions, scores of Ukrainian civilians continue to die needlessly every day." The aircraft they have shot down after the MH-17 downing have been military aircraft and their actions are part of a civil war. The framing pretends to deny any legitimacy to the rebel cause or to Russian concerns about the likelihood that Ukraine will become part of NATO. Would the US have security concerns if the Russians established a nuclear-capable military base in Cancun or Tijuana? Then any diplomatic effort should include assurances to the Russians that we are not going to take advantage of the change of government in Ukraine to establish military bases within about 700 miles of Moscow.

    When a number of veteran intelligence analysts are telling us that the quality of evidence that has been presented is inadequate--especially since there are the analysts that have accurately warned us about Iraq, we should listen.

    •  I don't believe Bush and Cheney, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TopCat, Anne Elk, Rashaverak

      and I don't believe Putin's propaganda organs either.

      Putin has a lot more in common with Bush and Cheney than he has in common with the U.S. Democratic Party.

      If you cannot see RT as the conspiracy theory manufacturing propaganda outlet that it is, I have to wonder why you think it is only America who lies.

      Putin and his cronies constantly lie like a motherfucker. I'm sick of their fucking lies.

      I don't want war, but I believe the sanctions to be very appropriate and helpful to the cause for world peace. I also believe that Putin should leave Ukraine alone....NOW.

      Putin lies that he does not intervene, and then he intervenes with weaponry in Ukraine every fucking day. Why aren't you sick of THAT?

      -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

      by sunbro on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:32:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Check this article out. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TopCat

      Is this all just lies to you? Is it so hard to believe that Putin is manufacturing untruths, and very well?

      63% of Russians believe that the Russian media is very objective about the downing of Flight 17. Talk about delusional.

      -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

      by sunbro on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:35:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Putin spends billions on propaganda. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TopCat

      May 31, Der Spiegel wrote an excellent article regarding Russia's propaganda machine.

      No one does disinformation like the Kremlin. They are the world's masters at it.

      -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

      by sunbro on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:41:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ray McGovern... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        limpidglass

        Ray McGovern spent a career seeing through propaganda, notably that of the Soviet Union.

        He is also pretty good at seeing through American propaganda.

        I don't think he has any illusions. Great powers lie. Some lie more deftly or for less venal motives than others.

      •  No, the US is the masters of "Public Diplomacy" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sunbro, limpidglass

        If Public Diplomacy (aka propaganda, depending on who's using it) is going to a bar, then Russia would be:

        While the US is like:

        Just trying to reduce tension a little bit :-)

        "No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks” --Mary Shelley

        by Alhambra on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 12:31:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  For better perspective on the propaganda war, (0+ / 0-)

        read Johnson's Russia List, which posts all the major commentary of the day on both sides of the divide. The Kiev media make claims every bit as absurd and dishonest as the Russian media.

        We are being lied to by both sides, but being effectively deluded and manipulated by just one side. I hope we wake up to that fact before we get dragged into yet another disastrous but unnecessary conflict.

    •  Who the heck are these retired analysts? (0+ / 0-)

      It's just some mid-level people with no special qualifications over and above thousands of others. Collectively they could be called "a small group of retirees with similar opinions on the Ukraine crisis". I don't see that their collective opinion outweighs those of the leaders of all the European nations and the USA. I am more persuaded by the opinions of Stephen F. Cohen, the noted expert on Russia who has been the recognized expert on Russia for more than 30 years. When he speaks, I listen. I don't agree with him sometimes, but he is worthy of respect. These guys though?

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 09:45:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ray McGovern briefed presidents (0+ / 0-)

        Ray McGovern briefed presidents from JFK to GHW Bush. William Binney developed the NSA monitoring systems. And so on.

        Ad hominem arguments such as yours are petty and futile, in addition to being transparently false. If you have something factual that you want to rebut about what they say, then rebut it. But don't just say they are nobodies and shouldn't be listened to.

      •  gee, character assassination is so cool! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Alhambra

        How about Robert Parry who broke Iran Contra?

        He's got more truth in his toenail than Obama and his propaganda admin have all together.

        http://consortiumnews.com/...

        The U.S. government’s case also must overcome public remarks by senior U.S. military personnel at variance with the Obama administration’s claims of certainty. For instance, the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported last Saturday that Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said last month that “We have not seen any of the [Russian] air-defense vehicles across the border yet.”
    •  Obama says the key to preventing further (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CharlesII

      bloodshed is to press Russia to stop arming the Donetsk separatists. Certainly that is something which needs to be done.

      But why doesn't Obama say anything about pressing the Ukrainian army and volunteer militias to stop bombarding their own fellow Ukrainian citizens in the east? Doesn't a stable, legitimate Ukraine require that it establish trust with its own citizens? Or do they see all who rejected the Maidan Revolution as Russian aliens who must be destroyed or expelled?

      Dies Kiev expect to build a stable legitimate Ukraine through ethnic cleansing?

      •  Had you been alive in the 1860s, would you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Rashaverak

        have told Lincoln to back off on attacking the South in order to put down a rebellion?

        •  If it could be avoided by negotiation, of course. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CharlesII

          The retention of slavery is not at issue in Ukraine. Only the issue of more regional autonomy for the east, under elected rather than appointed governors, with the right to continue trade relations with Russia. Those seem entirely reasonable demands by the eastern Ukrainians, most of whom voted for greater autonomy from Kiev, not annexation by Russia.

          The Ukrainian Army is raining down Grad missiles on Donetsk and Lugansk, and those missiles aren't distinguishing between Strel'kov's militiamen and innocent civilians.

          Much as Israel's bombs and missiles are not right now distinguishing between Hamas militiamen and ordinary Gazans.

          •  The flashpoint was probably... (0+ / 0-)

            What drove the separatist movement was probably statements about Ukraine of eliminating languages other than Ukrainian. Language is such a central point of identity that this became a powerful emotional issue.  

            For the Russians, Ukrainian neutrality is so primary that they were willing to egg on the separatists, supply them with weapons, and support (or run) the revolt in Crimea.  Revocation of Russian as an official language was a pretty clear signal--one of many-- of an intent to cleans Ukraine of Russian influence.

            So, negotiation is going to require more than trade relations and regional autonomy, though those are important, too. The West is going to have to recognize that Russia regards Ukraine as an area critical to its security, much as we regard Mexico and Canada. We would not stand still to having Russian air bases in Ottawa or a powerful Russian naval presence in the Gulf of Mexico.

            BTW, you might be interested in this CSIS paper.  

            •  Language probably wasn't the only issue, as (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CharlesII

              the Verhovna Rada soon back-tracked and pledged to continue permitting the use of Russian. Another polarizing issue there was the long rhetoric of violent "anti-Moskal" rhetoric coming from Svoboda and Pravyi Sektor, which seemed to eastern Russophones to threaten them with reprisal. And an especially important polarizing factor was anxiety about job loss and declining investment in the east. The fear was that the IMF plan for Ukraine might involve shutting down the "old-fashioned and less productive" mines of the Donbass in order to lower costs on energy (the region was lit and heated by natural gas, and once ties to Russia were cut Ukraine would have to pay a lot more for its natural gas).  

      •  Thanks for two great comments, Lance (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think we're up to ethnic cleansing... yet. The body count isn't high enough to suggest that the Ukrainian army is deliberately targeting civilians, just that they have a reckless disregard for civilians in the conflict zone. However, the number of refugees, well over 100,000 if I recall, is worrying.

        But the bitterness with which this conflict is being waged is beyond all proportion to the stakes for eastern Ukraine. True, the west is the industrial region. The devastation and the displacement of people means that Ukraine's GDP is going to plunge, requiring Western assistance.

        •  Yes, beyond all proportions to the stakes, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CharlesII

          as is usually the case in proxy conflicts. Ukraine is the battleground in a proxy conflict between the US and Russia. You can see that in the absurdly exaggerated and mendacious propaganda war, with the Americans and Kiev making accusations just as dishonest and the Donetsk and Russian media.

          What really disgusts me is this: the Russian Foreign Ministry at least still calls for a peaceful negotiated settlement (perhaps cynically, even while arming the rebels) while the US State Department doesn't even pretend to have an interest in negotiation and hasn't said a word to Kiev on the public record about halting the offensive against the rebels for peace talks.

    •  The Baltic States have been members of NATO (0+ / 0-)

      for years.  Are there any "nuclear-capable military bases" there?  Just what is a "nuclear-capable military base," anyway?  With ICBMs and nuclear-tipped long-range cruise missiles launched from intercontinental strategic bombers and submarines, if there is going to be a nuclear war, having bases close to a target country is not really that much of an advantage.

      •  But this is in fact a key element of the conflict (0+ / 0-)

        Russia regards Ukraine staying neutral as a must-have condition.

        Additionally, as far back as 2002,  Russia protested the inclusion of the Baltic states in NATO, saying that the goal was to surround Russia with anti-missile defenses that would vitiate Russian nuclear capability.

        The US issued assurances that Ukraine would never be offered NATO membership. Now it seems to be breaking those assurances.  

        I strongly suggest reading the CSIS paper that I linked:

        The alternative of simply letting the Baltics into NATO, and assuming Russia will get used to it, makes even less strategic sense after September 11 than it did before....Baltic inclusion in NATO would, on the contrary, be a loss for Russia, and would result in significant new NATO-Russia tensions. More to the point, infringing on one of Russia’s most neuralgic points in this context would mean throwing Putin’s initiative back in his face, forcing Putin and Russia to consider other, less attractive strategic options. Especially if NATO enlargement to the Baltic States is combined with U.S. abrogation of the ABM Treaty, Russia’s pro-Western option would be dead, probably for the rest of Putin’s administration.  
        Now Russia is abrogating the IRBM treaty, presumably because they are facing the possibility of trying to neutralize anti-missile systems ringing their country.  

        All of this is predictable. Indeed, CSIS basically predicted it.

        •  anti-missile defenses (0+ / 0-)

          They do not seem to provide much bang for the buck.

          Russia's pro-Western, or should I say, pro-peace, option is still there.  All it takes is a change of attitude.  I'm not saying that that is an easy thing to accomplish.

          •  Regarding anti-missile defenses (0+ / 0-)

            It's true that, at present, anti-missile defenses are not terribly effective. It's easy for the country firing a missile to fire decoys. Laser weapons can be defeated by rotating the missile. And, even if one succeeds in knocking down the missile, what does it do where it lands?  

            However, the US is engaged in testing an anti-missile system in Israel; the Iron Dome system works extremely well against Qassam rockets. So, from the standpoint of Russian planners, they are looking at the scenario where nuclear missiles could be within 700 miles of Moscow and a far more effective "Iron Dome" system could be positioned at its borders.

            The nearness of missiles alone is intolerable, because there's no time for response. We've already had several incidents where equipment failures led either the USSR or the US to believe that a massive nuclear strike was underway. Fortunately, in the 15 minutes or so that it takes for an ICBM to get from a distant launch to the US/USSR, we were able to work out that it was an equipment failure.

            The nearness of missiles and the problem it creates for response time is precisely what provoked the US military to threaten nuclear war, when the USSR placed missiles in Cuba. Havana to Washington is very roughly 1000 miles.

            So, why would we imagine that it would be acceptable to place missiles 700 miles from Moscow?  And that, of course, is the fear that any Russian military planner would have if Ukraine should join NATO.  

  •  Putin resumes the big lie. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TopCat

    IN Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is walking in the bloody shoes of Joseph Stalin. The Big Lie is abroad again in the golden fields of death.

    Continues Geoffrey Luck, for The Australian:

    Eighty years ago, the farmlands where the Malaysian airliner, its innocent passengers and crew fell saw the genocide of a generation, a holocaust before the holocaust.

    Ukrainians call it the Holo­domor, “extermination by hunger”. In nine months in 1932-33, upwards of seven million men, women and children were killed off in a Moscow-engineered famine. That was after half a million farmers, the Kurkuls (in Russian, Kulaks), had been shipped off to Siberia.

    The Lie was that the famine was a natural event following a drought the previous year; that the deaths were due to malnutrition and disease, not starvation.

    --snip--

    Not until Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror in 1986, his detailed exposition of the deliberate starvation genocide, did the world learn the truth.

    The destruction of MH17 came as an unwanted distraction from Vladimir Putin’s incitement of rebellion in eastern Ukraine, supported by supplies of heavy weaponry, including the notorious Buk ground-to-air missiles.

    The problem for the Russian President is that no matter who gave the order to fire, the missile that brought down MH17 was supplied and sponsored by Russia.

    This time, however, the Western media are hot on the case. While the plane came down in disputed territory, it was not then a conflict zone.

    Observers and reporters were quickly on the scene. Perhaps because of diplomatic pressure on their Russian sponsors, the rebel forces offered no real resistance to media crews or OCSE teams. They recovered most bodies, organised a refrigerated train and handed over the data recorders.

    Nevertheless, Moscow continues to push the line that the ­missile was fired by Ukrainian ­forces. That is essential to its case, just as was Stalin’s lie eight decades ago that its Ukrainian policy was not one of famine and ­extermination.

    -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

    by sunbro on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 06:48:53 PM PDT

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