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Obama To Visit Baltic Leaders, Sending A Message To Russia

McClatchy Tribune News Service Politics World

Obama To Visit Baltic Leaders, Sending A Message To Russia

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By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau

EDGARTOWN, Mass. — President Obama is slated to travel to Estonia next month, visiting the former Soviet republic in a move to try to reassure leaders in the region who worry that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine may spread.

The trip likely will get a chilly response from Moscow, where President Vladimir Putin takes a dim view of what he sees as U.S. meddling with countries that should belong to a Russian sphere of influence. A decade ago, Russian leaders were angered by a similar Baltic trip taken by then-President George W. Bush.

Obama will hold bilateral meetings with Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Roivas in Tallinn, the White House announced Friday. The president will also attend a summit of leaders of the Baltic nations with Ilves and the two other Baltic leaders, President Andris Berzins of Latvia, and President Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania.

The stop in Estonia was tacked on to a previously scheduled trip to Europe. The president is slated to attend the NATO summit in Wales in the United Kingdom on Sept. 4.

Unlike Ukraine, the three Baltic nations are NATO members. The three countries were occupied by the Soviets after World War II and absorbed into the Soviet Union, but broke free from Moscow’s control when Soviet power crumbled in 1991.

The White House described the trip as an opportunity “to discuss ongoing cooperation on regional security and policies that support economic growth, and to discuss collective defense,” according to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine, Obama has repeatedly had to reassure European allies that the United States remains prepared to defend its NATO allies. The president carried a similar message in a visit to Poland in June.

“In light of recent developments in Ukraine, the United States has taken steps to reassure allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and this trip is a chance to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to Article V as the foundation of NATO,” Hayden said.

AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

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1 Comment

  1. Dominick Vila August 16, 2014

    Considering what happened in the Crimean Peninsula, and what is happening in Eastern Ukraine, the ones that are sending an unmistakable message are the Russians.
    The problem we face, in this specific case, is that Western Europe depends more on Russian trade, especially oil and natural gas imports, than on anything we could offer to counteract the effects of a Russian embargo…and Putin knows it. To make matter worse, Putin’s decision to send a “humanitarian” convoy with food and medical supplies to Eastern Ukraine has proven to be an outstanding ploy that contrasts with what we have offered thus far: empty rhetoric and weapons.
    The best thing we can do is to let the Europeans handle the latest in a long string of European crises.
    The same goes for the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, whose resolution is impaired by our insistence to act as a mediator, when the entire world is well aware of our unconditional support to Israel. The best thing we could do in this case is to let countries like Norway, Sweden, Switzerland or any other truly impartial country take the lead in the search for a long term resolution that addresses the needs and aspirations of both sides.

    Reply

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