in Estonia and at NATO summit, to send strong message to Putin
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[August 30, 2014]
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama will visit Estonia and attend a NATO summit in Wales next
week to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that
his incursion into Ukraine must be reversed and to keep his hands off
the Baltic nations.
A fresh move into eastern Ukraine by Russian forces in support of
separatists is rattling the region, and Obama will reassure NATO's
Baltic allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that the alliance will
stand with them should Moscow turn its attention to them.
It will be the second visit ever to Estonia by an American
president, following George W. Bush's 2006 stop there. Obama will
meet all three Baltic leaders together and give a speech on
The White House said Obama will stress that the alliance's Article 5
commitment to the common defense of each member is an ironclad
"Russia, don't even think about messing around in Estonia or in any
of the Baltic areas in the same way that you have been messing
around in Ukraine," Charles Kupchan, the senior White House director
for European affairs, said on Friday in laying out Obama's mission.
The NATO summit will put Obama in the same room with many European
leaders who have joined with him in imposing economic sanctions on
Moscow for its move into Ukraine and he has said Washington is
considering stiffening those sanctions.
A focus of the summit will be to shift attention of the alliance
toward the east as a bulwark against any Russian expansionism in
Ukraine has asked for NATO for membership, but there is no consensus
within NATO for enlarging the alliance.
Also overshadowing Obama's trip will be how to confront a challenge
from Islamic State militants who have a stronghold in Syria and have
made gains against government forces in Iraq.
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NATO diplomats said a leaders' dinner next Thursday will be
dominated by talks on what they said is the increasingly prominent
threat posed by Islamic State at NATO’s southeastern corner along
Turkey's border with Syria and Iraq.
One challenge for Obama on the trip will be to persuade NATO leaders
to step up defense spending. European governments have lagged in
their commitment to provide 2 percent of GDP to defense because of
lingering economic woes.
Kupchan said he is reasonably optimistic of an agreement among the
28 NATO allies to rally behind a commitment toward increased
(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels and David
Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by David Storey and Ken Wills)
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