In Poland, Ukraine's western neighbor, Obama meets with Eastern
European leaders - including Ukraine's president-elect, Petro
Poroshenko, on Wednesday - and is expected to address criticism he
has not done enough to push back against Moscow after it annexed
Crimea in March.
The president's trip follows a speech at the U.S. Military Academy
last week in which he argued that American leadership in the world
should be exercised mainly by diplomacy, multilateral action and
economic pressure, as in Ukraine, rather than through military
"Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right
away. Because of American leadership, the world immediately
condemned Russian actions," Obama said.
But when Obama meets in Warsaw with leaders from 10 nations from
Central and Eastern Europe, analysts say he will be urged to
articulate a clearer plan to help prevent more instability in the
"There's a concern that we will disappear, we will fade, when the
next crisis hits us," said Heather Conley of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Obama has long faced calls from Eastern European statesmen to be
more forceful, including from Lech Walesa, who led Poland's
Solidarity trade union movement that played a critical role in the
overthrow of communism in the 1980s.
Walesa, a former Polish president, said in an interview on Poland's
TVN24 television network last week that he was disappointed in what
he considered Obama's insufficiently robust approach to the Ukraine
"The superpower has not been up to the job, and therefore the world
is at a dangerous point and maybe it really is the case that lots of
bad things are happening in the world because there is no
leadership," Walesa said.
Americans supported pro-democracy activists during martial law that
was imposed in Poland in 1981, and backed their struggle for the
first free elections 25 years ago, recalled Ryszard Schnepf, who was
part of the Solidarity movement.
Obama's visit is "kind of a sentimental treat to Poland" on the
"Freedom Day" anniversary of those elections, Schnepf, now Poland's
ambassador to the United States, said in an interview.
Poland is grateful for U.S. support in the current crisis, but
leaders want more, he said. "We are supporting the idea of more
engagement of the United States in the region," he said.
Obama is slated to give an address on U.S.-European relations on
Wednesday at the "Freedom Day" celebration.
The White House is considering ideas for more military "rotational
deployments" or additional personnel in the region, Ben Rhodes,
Obama's deputy national security adviser, told reporters.
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But Obama is not expected to make major announcements on the trip.
Rather, his mission is one of reassurance.
"What you've got with
each stop is a lot of symbolism," said James Goldgeier of American
University's School of International Service.
G7, NOT G8
After Poland, Obama heads to Brussels to meet with the G7. The
summit of the major economic powers had originally been planned for
Sochi in Russia until Moscow was suspended from the group - then the
G8 - over the Ukraine crisis.
Russia has since taken steps to pull back troops it deployed at the
border earlier this year and Ukraine's presidential election went
ahead without major problems, so it appeared unlikely the G7 would
push for further economic sanctions against Moscow.
"At present, all partners are agreed that the goal is to move toward
a de-escalation and no new sanctions are envisaged at this time," an
official in French President Francois Hollande's office told
"The idea is more to do all that we can to restore dialogue," the
Obama then heads to France on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of
D-Day, when Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches in the
invasion that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War Two.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will attend the ceremonies, is
due to meet with Hollande in Paris on Thursday. Obama is also slated
to dine with Hollande that evening, but the White House said Obama
and Putin had no formal meetings scheduled.
(Additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw and Julien
Ponthus in Paris; Editing by David Storey and Peter Cooney)
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