Obama’s Russia Speech: Highlights

July 7, 2009 at 10:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Obama Speech Highlights:

On NATO/Ukraine/Georgia: “Now let me be clear: America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country. We haven’t always done that…State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order. Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies. That is true for Russia, just as it is true for the United States. Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That is why this principle must apply to all nations – including Georgia and Ukraine. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country. For any country to become a member of NATO, a majority of its people must choose to; they must undertake reforms; and they must be able to contribute to the Alliance’s mission. And let me be clear: NATO seeks collaboration with Russia, not confrontation.”

What it means: Russia feels very aggrieved by NATO’s push to expand into Eastern Europe. NATO had promised it wouldn’t happened and it has.  Now, Putin and Medvedev have made clear they will not stand for it.  In order to push for more collaboration from Russia on tackling problems with Iran and North Korea, Obama needed to destabilize the threat Russia was feeling from NATO by emphasizing U.S. commitment to the sovereignty of all nations. Obama seemed to aim these remarks at the Ukraine because a majority of Ukraine do not support NATO membership.  

On Nuclear weapons reductions: Yesterday Obama and Medvedev signed 8 agreements on nuclear arms negotiations.  Today he said, “As we keep our own commitments, we must hold other nations accountable for theirs. Neither America nor Russia would benefit from a nuclear arms race in East Asia or the Middle East. That is why we should be united in opposing North Korea’s efforts to become a nuclear power, and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And I’m pleased that President Medvedev and I agreed upon a joint threat assessment of the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st Century, including from Iran and North Korea..”

What it means: This was one of the big themes of Obama’s visit.  He made clear that the U.S. needs Russia and greater international collaboration to deal with problems in Iran and North Korea.  Russia has a good trade relationship with Iran and Russia has rebounded somewhat under Putin’s leadership, but the economy is stalling in developing its resources, still clinging to “prizes of the recent past in oil wells and missiles.”  Obama is leveraging this vulnerability, but diplomatically—by saying the U.S. needs Russia, needs to reset its relationship, needs Russia to be on board to support tougher sanctions, assuming Iran will go ahead with its nuclear program.

Read full text of Obama’s speech here.

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