By Scott Wilson
By Scott Wilson
BRUSSELS — President Barack Obama attempted Wednesday to rouse Europe to confront Russia’s military seizure of Crimea, framing the West’s confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a clash of ideologies lingering from the Cold War.
In an evening speech at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Obama made a broad case for U.S. and European unity, for sanctions against Russia that could damage still-fragile European economies and for help leveraging American power that he made clear in this case does not include military force.
Using the museum as a cultural counterpoint to Russia’s display of force against Ukraine in recent weeks, Obama stressed that Moscow’s moves endanger not only that country but the international system that Europe and the United States have built over the years, a system that has been vital to the progress of democracy and international law worldwide.
"Now is not the time for bluster," Obama told an audience that, as has become his practice abroad, consisted mostly of young people. "The situation in Ukraine, like crises in many parts of the world, does not have easy answers, nor a military solution. But at this moment, we must meet the challenge to our ideals — to our very international order — with strength and conviction."
Echoing themes from a similar speech against complacency that he delivered last year in Berlin, Obama warned the European public, which he conceded might view Ukraine as a distant problem, that "we cannot count on others to rise to meet those tests."
"The policies of your government — the principles of your European Union — will make a difference in whether or not the international order that so many generations before you have strived for continues to move forward, or whether it retreats," he said.
Obama’s address here provided the central message of his three-country tour of Europe, and it began as a specific accounting of the West’s political values and how those contrast with Russia’s annexation of Crimea after a referendum that much of the world has called illegal.
The roughly half-hour speech ended largely as an argument with an absent counterpart — Putin — with Obama raising the Russian president’s arguments for military intervention in Ukraine and then rebutting them for a crowd more rapt than rowdy in the formal setting.