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1:16 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

On Eve Of D-Day Anniversary, World Leaders Cope With Fresher Scars

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 4:58 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. World leaders are gathering in France for a ceremony tomorrow marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. It could be an awkward get together, not because of old battle scars from World War II, but because of the current fighting over Ukraine. Vladimir Putin was deliberately excluded from this week's G-7 meeting in Brussels as punishment for Russia's interference in Ukraine. And the leaders who were at the meeting warn that Russia could face additional sanctions if the crisis is not quickly resolved. NPR's Scott Horsley has more.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama joined other world leaders this week in welcoming he election of Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine's new president. Poroshenko's due to be sworn in on Saturday and Obama says that creates an opening for Russia to stop making trouble in Ukraine and start mending fences.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Russia needs to seize that opportunity.

HORSLEY: Otherwise, British Prime Minister David Cameron warns whole sectors of the Russian economy could become targets for sanctions.

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PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: President Putin must recognize the legitimate election of President Poroshenko. He must stop arms crossing the border into Ukraine. He must cease Russian support for separatist groups. And third, if these things don't happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow.

HORSLEY: Britain and other countries have been hesitant to attack the Russian economy too aggressively for fear that could hit their own citizens in the pocketbooks. France is even moving ahead with a sale of warships to Russia, worth some $1.6 billion, even though Obama says this is hardly the time to be beefing up the Russian Navy.

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OBAMA: I recognize that this is a big deal. I recognize that the jobs in France are important. I think it would have been preferable to press the pause button.

HORSLEY: On the whole though, leaders insist they've shown surprising unity in standing up to Russia's actions in Ukraine. Prime Minister Cameron recalled another allied show of force, one that he and other leaders will commemorate tomorrow on the beaches of Normandy.

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CAMERON: Seventy years ago tonight, thousands of young British and American soldiers, with their Canadian and Free French counterparts, were preparing to cross the channel in the greatest liberation force that the world has ever known.

HORSLEY: Cameron says the debt that's owed to those soldiers will never be forgotten. Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the debt is not only for the military victory, but also the system of global rules that grew out of it.

HEATHER CONLEY: This is really about the international order that we helped create at the end of the second world war.

HORSLEY: Conley says today that order is threatened by Russia's annexation of Crimea as well as China's territorial moves in the South and East China Sea. She says that poses a challenge to the United States and other countries that depend on the rules of international law.

CONLEY: This is why American leadership and credibility is so much in the public conversation. We can either defend that system, that great sacrifice we created, or we can step back from it and allow others to help shape it and define it. That's what's at stake.

HORSLEY: In Warsaw this week, Obama insisted big countries must no longer be allowed to bully smaller ones, nor impose their will at gunpoint. He says the U.S. will stand up for that principle, but he added other countries have an obligation to do so as well.

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OBAMA: I think Europeans understand that the reason we've seen such extraordinary growth and peace on this continent has to do with certain values and certain principles that have to be upheld. And when they are so blatantly disregarded, you know, the choice is clear.

HORSLEY: Defending those principles sometimes requires sacrifice - something the men who fought in Normandy knew all too well. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.