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Obama To Visit with European, Asian, Middle Eastern Leaders

Published on 23 March 2014

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by Merle David Kellerhals Jr.


Washington, D.C.

The crisis in Ukraine, nuclear security and peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians will dominate meetings between President Obama and world leaders during the president's five-day trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia beginning March 24.

At a March 21 White House briefing, Ambassador Susan Rice, the president’s chief national security adviser, said the importance of Obama’s effort cannot be overstated. “From Europe to Asia to the Middle East, our ability to lead strong coalitions is essential to making progress” for global peace and security, she said.

Over a span of five days, Obama will attend the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands; an impromptu Group of Seven (G7) summit on the sidelines of The Hague meeting; the U.S.-EU Summit in Brussels; a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels; a meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican City; and a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh.

An important component of the president’s travel, most of which had been planned months ago but was altered after recent events in Ukraine, will be a series of scheduled meetings with individual world leaders to discuss global challenges and specific bilateral security and economic concerns, said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the March 21 background briefing.

Throughout the five-day diplomatic mission, Secretary of State John Kerry will accompany the president. Kerry will also hold bilateral meetings with foreign ministers, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the State Department said March 21.

These meetings take place, Rice said, against a backdrop of Russia’s intervention and subsequent annexation of the Crimean region, an act which has been roundly rejected by the United States, the European Union and the international community, including the U.N. Security Council.

“Over the course of this trip, the president will be mobilizing the international community and some of our most important partners in the world at a time when we’re dealing with a number of important challenges,” Rice said. “If there’s a common theme to this trip, it’s the fundamental strength and importance of our alliances and partnerships.”

Rice said that it will be clear to the world that Russia is increasingly isolated, and that the United States is leading the international community in supporting the Ukrainian government and people by imposing costs on Russian aggression. The United States and European Union have imposed significant sanctions against senior Russian and Crimean officials in recent days for causing the regional security crisis and to prevent further actions against Ukraine.

The impact of U.S. and EU sanctions, though only in force less than a week and a half, is being felt. The two international rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, have warned Russia they would downgrade its credit rating, making borrowing from world markets more expensive. And credit card companies Visa and MasterCard ceased operations with Bank Rossiya, the Russian bank included in economic sanctions announced by the United States March 20, according to published news reports.

A senior Russian finance official told the Interfax news agency that the sanctions have cast a general negative perception on the Russian economy, making borrowing more costly and adding pressure to the nation’s stock markets, one of which has seen its value fall 21 percent this year, according to the New York Times.

Rice said Russian actions in Ukraine and its response to the United States and the international community are prompting a fundamental reassessment of U.S.-Russian relations.


Rhodes told journalists at the White House briefing that the president would begin his meetings in The Hague March 24 with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte at Amsterdam’s iconic Rijksmuseum. Following that, Obama will attend the Nuclear Security Summit.

Obama is also scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and then have a crucial meeting with leaders from the other G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The president is also meeting with the king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, and attending a working dinner.

On March 25, Obama will attend more Nuclear Security Summit meetings, but also will participate in separate meetings with individual leaders and conclude the summit with a joint press conference with Prime Minister Rutte. One of the bilateral meetings will be with Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates to discuss the U.S. commitment to Gulf security and efforts to support the opposition in Syria, Rhodes said.

In Belgium on March 26, Obama will meet with Belgian leaders before attending the U.S.-EU Summit. Rhodes said the Ukrainian crisis will be the major focus of the summit, but the leaders will also discuss the under-negotiation Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, nuclear talks with Iran and a broad range of other issues.

Separately, Obama will meet with NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen to discuss efforts to bolster the joint security alliance and efforts to reinforce the security of U.S. allies and Eastern Europe. The 2014 NATO Summit will be held in Wales in June.

Obama will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on March 27, and then hold talks with Italian leaders before traveling to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for meetings with Saudi King Abdullah on March 28, Rhodes said.



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Posted 2014-03-23 15:58:00