White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked whether President Barack Obama regretted being “dismissive” about Mitt Romney’s contention Russia was America’s “number one geo-political foe” at a press conference Thursday. Carney replied that the president had no regrets about his response to Romney’s remarks when they ran against each other in the 2012 presidential election and suggested the ouster of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine is evidence of Russia’s weakness.
“You have a situation where Russia is violating international law because a country that Moscow — a government that Moscow supported was rejected by the vast majority of the Ukrainian people,” Carney said. “I think it’s hardly a demonstration of — it’s not a positive thing for Russia that Ukraine has been moving in this direction.”
In recent days, Romney’s exchanges with Obama from the 2012 presidential debates have repeatedly been referenced by critics of the Obama administration as evidence the White House has been too soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carney argued Republicans should not be trying to score political points and should instead focus their anger on the Russian government’s decision to send troops into the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
“Partisan politics are fine, we engage in them every day here,” said Carney. “But, you know, in a case like this, instead of being a partisan Republican and attacking the president, be a partisan American in identifying the outrageous actions and violations of international law that have taken place.”
Earlier in the press conference, Obama himself spoke and re-iterated his desire for Russia to “de-escalate” in Ukraine. The President said America was eager to find a “way to resolve the crisis … that respects the interests of the Russian Federation.” However, Obama said a referendum on joining Russia that has been proposed by the pro-Putin parliament in Crimea as a solution would also be against international law.
Obama also described the executive order he issued Thursday to authorise sanctions and visa restrictions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals responsible for “undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine” as part of the White House’s “efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those involved in the situation in Crimea.”
After he and the president spoke, Carney took questions from reporters in the White House briefing room. Carney repeatedly declined to identify specific individuals who could be targeted for sanctions.
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