Obama wants Russia to 'de-escalate' in Ukraine

While speaking at a Democratic fundraiser on Tuesday, President Obama discussed the challenges in Ukraine and said he hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will pull back from Crimea.

"We may be able to de-escalate over the next several days and weeks, but it's a serious situation and we're spending a lot of time on it," Obama told Democratic backers at the Virginia home of former U.S. senator Chuck Robb.

Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and aides have urged Putin to pull back soldiers to long-standing Russian military bases in Crimea, and to abide by agreements that limit the number of Russian troops in the region.

Obama and Kerry have said that international monitors can go to Ukraine to protect the rights of Russian-speaking people, the reason Putin cited for the incursion into Crimea. The administration also wants Russia to allow Ukraine to conduct new elections in May.

At the same time, Obama and Kerry are talking to allies about possible sanctions on Russia if it does not stand down. Unity on new sanctions may not be so easy to achieve: Many European nations depend on Russia for its energy supplies.

RELATED:EU pledges $15 billion aid package to Ukraine

At the fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Obama said the troubles in Ukraine reflect "a broader trend around the world," particularly in the Middle East.

In an age of social media, authoritarian and corrupt regimes are "having a much harder time clinging on to power," Obama said, noting that Ukranians drove a pro-Russia president from power.

"At the same time, in many of these societies, you don't have strong traditions of civil society and organization that allow orderly transfers of power, and that makes for an often chaotic situation," Obama said.

He added: "Part of what we have to navigate — not just this year or next year but for years to come, not just in the Middle East, but around the world — is going to be our ability to help countries provide a voice for people who have previously been voiceless."


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