Why Obama sticks to diplomacy despite flak

Why Obama sticks to diplomacy despite flak
Mr Obama in his speech dismissed notions of a new Cold War, saying that the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of the past.

WASHINGTON - Nearly a month of heavy criticism of his foreign policy and repeated suggestions that Ukraine would be a litmus test of his presidency were looming over United States President Barack Obama as he took to the podium in Brussels for what would be the pivotal speech of his European trip.

Yet, anyone looking for even a slight recalibration of his diplomacy first, participatory approach did not get it. Instead, Mr Obama doubled down on his strategy of dealing with an increasingly belligerent Moscow.

In a 40-minute speech, he dismissed notions of a new Cold War, saying the Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of the past.

"Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology," he said as he sought to cast the current conflict as one fought on values.

"Now is not the time for bluster. 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."

Indeed, there had been little evidence ahead of the trip that the US administration had lost faith in its post-war approach.

Still, Mr Obama's strong exposition for the decision to respond by isolating Russia and urging Europe to take actions of its own comes at the end of a month during which his move to take US foreign policy off a war footing has been relentlessly skewered at home. A poll this week saw favourability ratings for his foreign policy fall, with just 40 per cent of Americans saying they approve of his foreign policy.

The question is why he would choose to take this path, given how the likes of Russia and China might react. White House observers say the approach is driven by a conviction that the policy is the correct one.

The administration dismisses suggestions that it was some perception of weakness - for instance, it did not punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons - that triggered Russia's attempt to re-form the Soviet Union.

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