President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that Russia’s aggressive actions toward Ukraine undermine the principles the world body was established on after World War II.
President Barack Obama speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 24, 2014. Obama denounced Russian aggression in Europe, but said Washington would lift sanctions if Moscow changes course. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)
“One hundred years ago, a World War claimed the lives of many millions, proving that with the terrible power of modern weaponry, the cause of empire leads to the graveyard,” Obama said. “It would take another World War to roll back the forces of fascism and racial supremacy, and form this United Nations to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory.”
But Obama said that's exactly what Russia is doing in seeking to claim parts of Ukraine as its own.
“Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order,” Obama said.
“This is a vision of the world in which might makes right – a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed,” he said. “America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might – that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.”
Obama laid out a case against Russia before the international delegates, citing its annexation of Crimea against the will of the Ukrainian government; sending arms to violent separatists in a “conflict that has killed thousands;” and refusing to allow access to the crash site for days of a civilian commercial airliner that separatists shot down.
“Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border,” Obama said.
“The recent cease-fire agreement in Ukraine offers an opening to achieve that objective,” he added. “If Russia takes that path – a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people – then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges.”