President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was seen as provocative … – Sydney Morning Herald
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was seen as provocative in Moscow. Photo: AP
Moscow: President Barack Obama briefly, but pointedly, addressed a year of tense relations with Russia over Ukraine during his State of the Union address this week, saying the United States was “upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small.”
Today Russia replied: Who are you calling a bully?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov railed against Obama’s address during his annual year-in-review news conference on Wednesday, charging that Obama’s speech “showed that the United States intends to dominate the world.”
“The Americans have chosen a path toward confrontation, and do not evaluate their own steps critically at all,” Mr Lavrov said. “Yesterday’s address by President Obama showed that the central principle of the United States’ philosophy is based on only one thing: The we’re No. 1 and everybody else has to recognise that.”
Mr Obama’s comments on Russia weren’t quite as gauche as that: He did voice the common refrain of declaring America’s exceptionalism in State of the Union speeches toward the end of the speech, but quite a while after talking about Russia – and defended the US push to impose sanctions on Russia by pointing out that “it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.”
But it’s not the first time in recent months that a Russian leader has accused the United States of bullying the world into submission.
In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of international experts at the Valdai Club that the United States was destabilising the entire global order in its attempt to “reshape the world,” based on what Mr Putin diagnosed as an undeserved sense of post-Cold War victor’s justice.
On Wednesday, Mr Lavrov noted that Russia “does not want and do not support any new Cold War.”
But he scoffed at the idea that the United States had built up a team of allies to counter Russia through anything but coercion and force, pointing to past comments of Mr Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to support the argument that the US “forced Europe to do what they wanted with regard to our country.”
Over the past year, the United States and Europe have enacted several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine. While the United States often took the lead in pushing for many of those sanctions, European leaders have held the line against Russia, deciding just Monday that the situation on the ground in Ukraine didn’t merit any discussion of rolling back sanctions.
There has been a spike in hostilities in the past week between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army in eastern Ukraine, marked with fierce battles reminiscent of the worst days of the conflict last summer. Ukrainian leaders have charged that Russia is once again sending troops over the border to support the rebels – a charge Russia denies, but that US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt appeared to support on Tuesday, according to Russian news wire Interfax.
The Kremlin maintains that it is Kiev that is intent on furthering hostilities – and that the United States is using the Ukraine conflict to stick it to Russia and Mr Putin.
“The matter here isn’t Crimea and it’s not Ukraine. If it weren’t Crimea, they would come up with another excuse,” Mr Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian magazine Argumenty i Fakty in an interview posted online on Tuesday.
Mr Lavrov also said he considered the United States’ approach to international relations “outdated” and “not a proper thing for a great power.”
“I should like that all countries choose the path of cooperation, not the path of diktat disguised in some diplomatic form,” he said, adding the charge that the US was actually too weak to go it alone – which is why it tries to form coalitions, as in Iraq.
Mr Lavrov also expressed more doubts than hope that the United States’ approach would change anytime soon.
“It’s in their blood and flesh, they believe they are first, and this philosophy, this genetic code, is very hard to change,” Mr Lavrov said, before expressing faint confidence that “the logic of partnership” between the United States and Russia would ultimately prevail.