Obama to urge European leaders to maintain pressure on Russia over Ukraine

US president to reassure Nato allies on stance in relation to Russia

US president Barack Obama: four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France comes against the backdrop of successful national elections in Ukraine and signs that Russia is moving most of its troops off its shared border with the former Soviet republic. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

US president Barack Obama: four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France comes against the backdrop of successful national elections in Ukraine and signs that Russia is moving most of its troops off its shared border with the former Soviet republic. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

US president Barack Obama will press European leaders this week to keep up pressure on Russia over its threatening moves in Ukraine. At the same time he will seek to assuage fears from Poland and other Nato allies that the West could slip back into a business-as-usual relationship with Moscow.

Mr Obama’s four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France comes against the backdrop of successful national elections in Ukraine and signs that Russia is moving most of its troops off its shared border with the former Soviet republic.

But violence continues to rage in eastern Ukrainian cities and there remains deep uncertainty about whether Ukraine’s new president-elect can stabilise his country.

US officials contend that, even with some signs of progress, Russia has not taken the necessary steps to ease tensions and could still face additional economic sanctions.

Mr Obama will look for Western allies to show a united front during a meeting of the Group of Seven major industrial nations that was quickly arranged after leaders decided to boycott a meeting Russia had been scheduled to host this week.

But at least some parts of Mr Obama’s visit will challenge the notion that the West has isolated Moscow.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is scheduled to join US and European leaders in France on Friday for a day of events marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Mr Putin will also hold one-on-one talks with French president François Hollande, his first meeting with a Western leader since the Ukraine crisis began.

Isolation

“Putin may not get to host the G8 but if he gets to go to Normandy with everybody, it begins to diminish the appearance of isolation,” said Steven Pifer, the former US ambassador to Ukraine.

The White House says Mr Obama will not hold a formal bilateral meeting with Mr Putin, though the leaders are expected to have contact. Officials also disputed the notion that Mr Putin’s presence constituted a return to normal relations, saying Mr Obama and other leaders have talked with Mr Putin throughout the crisis with Ukraine.

Yet those reassurances may be of little comfort to Nato allies who sit near the Russian border, particularly Poland, where Mr Obama will open his trip tomorrow. In April, the US moved about 150 troops into Poland to try to ease its security concerns, but Mr Obama is likely to get requests from Polish leaders for extra support. –(PA)