Newport, Wales – — President Barack Obama will convene today a meeting of European allies to discuss the West’s response to Russia’s provocations in Ukraine and Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq.
The meeting will occur this morning on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Wales. Obama arrived here Wednesday night after a whirlwind visit to Estonia, where he pledged NATO support to Baltic nations who fear Russia could threaten their sovereignty.
The leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy will join Obama for today’s meeting. The leaders are expected to discuss the potential for deeper economic sanctions on Russia and European contributions to efforts to stamp out Islamic State militants.
Obama will also meet this afternoon with Jordan’s King Abdullah, whose country is caught in the Middle East crossfire.
Obama offered reassurance and military might to Estonia and the other Baltic nations on Wednesday, promising to thwart Russia's "dark tactics" and territorial ambitions should they spread from Ukraine to those NATO allies to the north.
At a daylong stopover before a NATO summit, Obama declared that the alliance would protect some of its newest members, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, from what he described as bullying from Moscow. Obama previewed NATO's plans to back up its reassurances with a new commitment of several thousand additional troops to be rotated through the region. Estonia and Latvia share a border with Russia, and all three countries were once Soviet states.
"We'll be here for Estonia. We'll be here for Latvia. We'll be here for Lithuania. You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you'll never lose it again," Obama told an audience of students and young professionals at a concert hall in this capital city on the Baltic Sea. "The defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London."
The president's gestures of alliance were similar to reassurances and promises of increased military presence he made to Poland this spring, and there remained little new in the West's strategy for confronting Moscow in the months since it annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatist militias in the eastern part of the country.
France's president did announce later Wednesday that the country is suspending delivery of a warship to Russia, saying in a statement that Russia's escalating aggression in Ukraine harms "the foundations of security in Europe." Allies had pressed for the move for months, but the French president, Francois Hollande, had said that nixing the deal would be too expensive.
Chicago Tribune contributed.
Moscow, Ukraine working on cease-fire plan
Russia and Ukraine said Wednesday they are working on a deal to halt months of fighting in eastern Ukraine, an announcement that threatened to upstage a crucial NATO summit on the crisis that has chilled East-West relations.
Western leaders expressed some skepticism over the plan, noting it wasn’t the first attempt to establish a truce, and that earlier efforts had failed.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said after a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two leaders have agreed on cease-fire steps.
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