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Obama warns Russia NATO is ready to defend its allies

'Russia threatens neighbors out of weakness' says US president

25 March, 18:40
Obama warns Russia NATO is ready to defend its allies (ANSA) - The Hague, March 25 - US President Barack Obama said Tuesday Russia will face additional sanctions should it move further into Ukraine after it annexed Crimea earlier this month.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Dutch Premier Mark Rutte after the third world Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), Obama also said the US stands ready to defend its NATO allies should the situation deteriorate.

''Europe and America are united in our support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,'' Obama said, who will arrive in Rome on Wednesday ahead of meetings with Pope Francis, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Premier Matteo Renzi on Thursday.

''Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness. We are concerned about further encroachment of Russia into Ukraine''.

Obama went on to remind Russia that diplomacy is still an option, as long as it withdraws its troops from Ukraine and allows early elections there. ''My expectation is that if the Ukrainian people are allowed to make their own decisions, their decision will be that they want to have a relationship with Europe and with Russia.

This is not a zero-sum game,'' Obama went on. ''We have considerable influence over our neighbors'', he added. ''We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them''.

''It is now up to Russia to act responsibly and to show itself willing to abide by international law... failure to do so will have additional costs'', including sanctions in sectors like energy, finance, arms sales, and trade, the US president said.

He went on to reassure America's NATO allies.

''We will act in their defense against any threats. That's what NATO is all about. When it comes to a potential military response, that is defined by NATO membership'', Obama said.

Crimea, a region of Ukraine, voted to secede and join Russia on March 16.