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Obama Stresses Global Leadership In New U.S. Security Strategy

  • RFE/RL

The White House has unveiled a new national security strategy reasserting the need for U.S. leadership in ensuring a "rules-based international order" and mobilizing global efforts on an array of security fronts, including halting Russian "aggression."

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a document released on February 6 that the United States is "leading international coalitions to confront the acute challenges posed by aggression, terrorism, and disease."

Obama said Washington is "in lockstep with our European allies" and "enforcing tough sanctions on Russia to impose costs and deter future aggression" in response to the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.

The document, which gives a broad outline of Obama's foreign-policy priorities for the rest of his time in office, cites a range of other risks, including nuclear proliferation, Islamist terrorism, and "destructive" cyberattacks.

The policies spelled out in the document differ little from the Obama administration's current stance on a range of international fronts, including combatting Islamic State (IS) militants and the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.

While stressing the importance of U.S. leadership on the international stage, Obama warns in his introduction to the document that Washington should not "overreach" when grappling with global crises.

Obama writes: "The United States will always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners. But, we have to make hard choices among many competing priorities, and we must always resist the over-reach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear."

The release of the documents comes amid heated discussion in Washington over whether to provide arms to Ukraine as it battles a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine that Kyiv and Western governments accuse Moscow of backing.

U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice, speaking on February 6 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said that "Russia is a particular challenge. And there is no question that a great deal of our effort and attention, and our resources, will be devoted to dealing with a Russia that is now acting in a very aggressive and threatening fashion."

The new strategy says that Washington "will strengthen U.S. and international capacity to prevent conflict among and within states," adding that "Russia's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and its "belligerent stance toward other neighboring countries" presents a danger to "international norms that have largely been taken for granted since the end of the Cold War."

Rice said that "Russia's aggression against Ukraine is a heinous and deadly affront to long-standing international law and norms," adding that the United States and EU had created a coalition of countries "to impose steep political and economic costs on Russia, in contrast to the cost-free invasion of Georgia."

Addressing the risk of global terrorism, Obama repeats his administration's commitment to "degrade and ultimately defeat" IS militants in Syria and Iraq while "keeping pressure" on Al-Qaeda.

On terrorists, he argues that the United States should avoid the deployment of large ground forces like those sent more than a decade ago to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The documents also stresses that the United States must lead by example and "live our values at home while promoting universal values abroad."

"From the Middle East to Ukraine to Southeast Asia to the Americas, citizens are more empowered in seeking greater freedoms and accountable institutions," it states.

"But these demands have often produced an equal and opposite reaction from backers of discredited authoritarian orders, resulting in crackdowns and conflict," it continues.

The strategy says the United States has "strengthened our commitment" against torture and is working with Congress to transfer detainees from the controversial U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It also states that Washington will apply pressure on human rights issues to governments that "do not share all our values" but with which the United States must engage due to "strategic interests."

With reporting by AP
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