Obama: Right to self-determination being tested
Obama: Right to self-determination being tested in Europe, Ukraine crisis
Associated Press
2014-03-27 03:01 AM

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Calling it a global "moment of testing," President Barack Obama appealed to Europeans on Wednesday to retrench behind the war-won ideals of freedom and human dignity, voicing confidence that those advocating those values will ultimately triumph in Ukraine.

Painting a historical arc across the major global clashes of the last century and beyond, Obama said young people born today come into a world more devoid of conflict and replete with freedom than any time in history -- even if that providence isn't fully appreciated.

"Today, what would have seemed impossible in the trenches of Flanders, the rubble of Berlin, in a dissident's prison cell, that reality is taken for granted," Obama said in a major speech in Brussels. "I come here today to say we must never take for granted the progress than has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world."

At the same time, Obama warned against yielding to isolationism or avoiding direct engagement in far-off crises. After all, America's economy and borders aren't deeply threatened by Russia's incursion into Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, Obama noted

"If we defined our interests narrowly, if we applied a cold-hearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way," Obama said. "But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that were written in this continent."

Obama's remarks came midway through a weeklong trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia that has been dominated by efforts to coordinate the European and American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government's actions in Ukraine. Earlier Wednesday, Obama pledged to defend U.S. allies during a meeting with the head of NATO, and on Tuesday he held an emergency meeting with leaders of major economies focused on tightening sanctions against Moscow.

"If the Russian leadership stays on its current course, together we will ensure that this isolation deepens," Obama said.

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