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Ukraine crisis brings Obama to Brussels

  • March 27th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Obama EU 3-14Keeping together is the theme for the Europeans and United States, faced with Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and the ongoing ructions in South-eastern Europe.

President Barack Obama’s visit to Brussels to see heads of NATO and the European Union (27.3.14), not going to national capitals first-up, drew attention to the idea of Europe as a whole.

Most other political leaders and high officials were saying the same, keep together; while action was controlled and incremental, its main thrust to isolate the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.LESSONS OF THE PAST

Obama Bxl mororcadeScheduled for a week in Europe, President Obama, hosted by Belgium’s King Philippe, told a crowded hall that while he was pursuing diplomatic solutions, “indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent.”

If getting cast in a Cold War, ‘leader of the free world’ mould, he did not see Europe under threat, and was not talking military responses.

He would support a strengthening of the NATO alliance in Eastern Europe; backed a unified stance, and pointed out that the Europeans would need to get out of their present heavy dependence on energy supplies from Russia.

See Video, Washington Post / US federal News Service:-, (27.3.14).



Obama EU two“We reaffirmed our shared values of democracy, individual freedom, the rule of law and human rights, and a common commitment to open societies and economies”, said Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the Council, (picture), after seeing Mr Obama.

Obama RasmussenThe NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, stressed the theme of trans-Atlantic solidarity, in remarks to the visitor (picture):

“Thank you for your strong leadership and for your steadfast commitment to our Alliance. The transatlantic bond between North America and Europe is the bedrock of security in Europe and in North America. And I really appreciate your reaffirmation of the commitment of the United States to our shared defence and security.

“And I welcome the steps that the United States has taken in response to Russia’s reckless and illegal military actions in Ukraine. Clearly collective defence of our Allies is a core task for NATO and I join you in your call for additional measures to enhance our collective defence including updated and further developed defence plans, enhanced exercises, and appropriate deployments.

“Our commitment to the defence of our Allies is unbreakable and at the same time we are firm in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will intensify our military cooperation with Ukraine including helping the Ukrainians to modernise their armed forces…”


Crimea_crisis_mapPart of the pressure on the Russian government, and some of its friends in Ukraine, was the set of visa bans and bank account freezes aimed at key players in the neo-nomenklatura. Declaring Russia, with its campaigns around the Black Sea region, a “regional power”, might have had a deflating effect on one less so plainly tough-as-old-boots as the current Russian leader.

Another application of pressure came with the peremptory winding up of the Group of Eight, the G8 forum of leading economic powers, and so cancellation of its showcase summit mid-year at Sochi; instead the G7, the original group less Russia, is to meet in Brussels.

Also meeting in Brussels, last week (20.3.14), the European Union heads of government continued work on their joint position on Ukraine, signaling an ongoing application of sanctions, discussing also vital, long-term cooperation on energy and climate.

Surely behind the tones of assurance, certain discussion would be given in such corridors or power to the nature of one Vladimir Putin; ample scope there for the psychological profilers, and military intelligence,  probing-on to divine the man’s intentions – whether or not as yet fully known to himself.

Bishop, JulieThe Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop (picture), has outlined the government position  on the trouble in Europe, telling ABC radio (20.3.14), it was hoped that Russia “will come back to sensible diplomatic discussion”.

The occupation and acquisition of Crimea (18.3.14) had intensified a situation that could have been resolved by diplomacy, while now, “this situation  could spiral out of control.”

Australia on 18.3.14 announced travel and financial sanctions in tandem with Canada, Europe and the United States.

Ms Bishop was speaking after a European visit, a trip to England where the Minister saw Queen Elizabeth, saw government leaders and security chiefs, and made an agreement for Australian diplomatic missions to share real estate with British Embassies around the globe. That was not at all in the vein of more “aspirational” projects of the recent past; like the distinctive 1970s Australian embassy to France in  the rue Jean Rey, across from the Eiffel Tower, (see picture).

Paris EmbassyAvowedly less “internationalist” or “mulitlateralist” than its Labor Party predecessor, the new Australian government is showing itself also partial to snuggling in with the old colonial motherland. This week it resurrected imperial honours, the naming of Dames and Knights, conferred by the Sovereign in London, the system dropped by the Australian government nearly 40 years past.


Council of the European Union, Brussels, 8228/14 (OR. en), PRESSE 190, EU-US Summit, Joint Statement, 26.3.14., (27.3.14).

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Press Release (2014) 056, Statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the meeting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, 26.3.14.

Claire Rozemberg, Tangi Quemener, Obama demands West stand firm against ‘brute force’, AFP, Paris, 27.3.14., (27.3.14).

The Washington Post /Federal News service, Washington, Full Transcript: President Obama gives speech addressing Europe, Russia on March 26, 27.3.14., (27.3.14).


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