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The U.S. And The Power Of Multilateral Action


President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during a graduation and commissioning ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy, May 28, 2014, in West Point, New York.

President Barack Obama emphasized the importance -- for the U.S. and the world -- of multilateral action and international cooperation.

In a major foreign policy address at the United States Military Academy, President Barack Obama emphasized the importance -- for the U.S. and the world -- of multilateral action and international cooperation in relieving tensions and resolving crises.

He pointed to two examples: Ukraine and Iran.

To counter Russia’s propaganda against its neighbor, as well as Russia’s massing of troops on Ukraine’s border and support for armed militias inside Ukraine, the U.S., Mr. Obama said, used its ability to shape world opinion to isolate Russia:

“Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions, Europe and the G-7 joined with us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.”

On May 25, Mr. Obama noted, Ukrainians went to the polls by the millions to vote for a new president:

“There will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order, working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future – without us firing a shot.”

Similarly, international cooperation has provided a new opportunity to resolve tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which, despite warnings, Mr. Obama said, has steadily advanced for years.

“But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government. And now we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully.”

Mr. Obama warned that the “odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon:”

“But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement, one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force. And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.”

In both the case of Ukraine and Iran, said President Obama, the United States “built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge. Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent problems from spreading.”

“This is American leadership,” Mr. Obama said. “This is American strength.”
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