President Barack Obama defended his administration’s foreign policy in a statement from the White House on Friday where he argued the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the military conflict between Israel and Hamas are not evidence American influence abroad is waning.
“Apparently, people have forgotten that America as the most powerful country on earth still does not control everything around the world and,” Obama said. “Our diplomatic efforts often take time, they often will … That’s the nature of world affairs.”
Obama addressed the situations in Israel and Ukraine when he took questions from the White House press corps after making a brief statement on the economy. A reporter pointed out there has been “very little effect so far” from American efforts to impose sanctions on Russia as Kremlin-backed separatists battle the Ukrainian government and Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to negotiate a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. They asked Obama whether this shows the U.S. is losing influence on the world stage.
The president defended his efforts with respect to both situations and argued his administration has “made progress in delivering” in both Israel and Russia. However, he said solving the issues in both areas may take a long time.
With regard to Russia, Obama insisted American sanctions could have a real effect on Russian President Vladimir Putin and encourage him to stop support separatists in Ukraine.
“We can’t control how Mr. Putin thinks, but what we can do is say to Mr. Putin, … ‘You’re going to face consequences that are going to hurt your country,'” said Obama.
Obama also argued his administration has “invested an enormous amount” to encourage negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and promote a two-state solution. Later on, Obama said “there isn’t any other country” making similar efforts to promote a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
“If you look at the 20th century and the early part of this century, there are a lot of conflicts that America doesn’t solve,” Obama said. “That’s always been true. That doesn’t mean we stop trying.”
Obama went on to give his take on America’s role in the world.
“It’s a big world out there, and as indispensable as we are to try to lead it, there’s still going to be tragedies out there and there are going to be conflicts,” said the president. “Our job is that we continue to project what’s right and what’s just.”
Obama was also asked whether he felt he could have done more to deal with the violence in Israel and Ukraine.
“The nature of being president is that you’re always asking what more can you do,” Obama said.
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