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September 4, 2014

Obama condemns Russia for supporting Ukrainian separatists


President Obama condemned Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine as the international community prepares for a world summit.

Crimea, an area of land on the Black Sea, is a territory claimed by both Ukraine and Russia. The region became part of Ukraine after the country established independence from the Russian-led confederation of republics, the Soviet Union, in 1991.

But when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was pushed out in late 2013, Crimean authorities who had supported him clashed with the new administration and urged closer political ties to Russia. On March 17, Crimea announced its independence from Ukraine. Russia annexed the area shortly afterward.

The international community largely does not recognize Crimea as part of Russia and disapproves of the annexation. In late March, the United Nations approved a U.S.-led resolution stating that the annexation was illegal. Since the annexation, pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting in the region.

Obama criticized Russia for giving separatists military supplies.

“It wasn’t the government in Kiev that destabilized Eastern Ukraine. It’s been the pro-Russian separatists, who are encouraged by Russia, financed by Russia, trained by Russia, supplied by Russia, and armed by Russia,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have proposed steps that could lead to a cease-fire, but pro-Russian separatists rejected those proposals.

The conflict has sparked unrest among other Eastern European nations who won independence from the Soviet Union. Obama addressed these concerns this week.

“We will be here for Estonia. We will be here for Latvia. We will be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again,” he said.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Eastern Europe? What are the names of some of the countries that are a part of Eastern Europe?
  2. How could alliances between countries be helpful during times of war and peace?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are the risks and benefits of a country being part of an alliance like NATO?
  2. Why would the international community, specifically NATO allies, not recognize Crimea as being part of Russia? Hint: Think about the message it would send if they did recognize that Crimea was now part of Russia?
  3. Do you believe there is a real threat that Russia might attempt to annex more Eastern European countries? Explain your answer.
  4. Do you think that NATO should send in troops to stabilize and protect NATO countries in Eastern Europe? What other options might they have beside a military intervention? What is the best way to control the situation?
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