Obama to Putin: Pull Back Troops from Ukraine Border

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 11:01 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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President Barack Obama called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down his troops that are hovering along the Ukrainian border and start negotiating a solution to reduce tension.

"What we need right now to resolve and de-escalate the situation, would be for Russia to move back those troops and to begin negotiations directly with the Ukrainian government, as well as the international community," President Obama told Scott Pelley on CBS "This Morning" Friday.

Obama explained that the troop buildup, which Russian officials have characterized as military exercises, was "not what Russia would normally be doing." He said the purpose of the troops' presence could be "simply an effort to intimidate Ukraine."

Story continues below video.

After the Russian takeover of Crimea, there has been speculation that  the troop buildup signaled Russia's intention to penetrate further into Ukraine.

Obama said a desire to invade Ukraine could stem from Putin's "deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union."

"You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there'd be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War. But, in fact, to move forward, with further integrations with the world economy, and to be a responsible international citizen," Obama said.

Putin was wrong if he thought the West had any interest in Ukraine "beyond letting the Ukrainian people make their own decisions about their own lives," the president said. He suggested Putin "may be entirely misreading the West."

President Obama indicated Russia would continue to influence Ukraine because of "trade and tradition and language and heritage." Whatever Putin's motivations, he said there was no justification for Russia invading Ukraine.

"It is true that we reject the notion that there's a sphere of influence along the Russian border that then justifies Russia invading other countries.

"There's a difference between (influence) and sending in troops, because you're bigger and stronger, taking a piece of the country. That is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century," Obama said.

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