President Barack Obama will be in Europe this week to celebrate Poland’s 25th anniversary of breaking free from communism and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. Despite the significant occasions, the crisis between Ukraine and Russia will take center stage.
Obama will use these opportunities to urge Europe to keep the pressure on Russia, but as of Monday there are no plans for Obama to personally meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. From the Associated Press:
The White House says Obama will not hold a formal bilateral meeting with Putin, though the two leaders are expected to have some contact. Officials also disputed the notion that Putin’s presence constituted a return to normal relations, noting that Obama and other leaders have talked with the Russian president throughout the crisis with Ukraine.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama, and Putin will be together on Friday for D-Day. Hollande announced he plans to meet with Putin one-on-one before Friday, which would be the first time a Western leader speaks to Putin in person since February. On Monday, the UK said Cameron will hold talks with Putin on Friday. The four Western leaders have talked to Putin on the phone since the crisis started in March.
The US and EU sanctioned Russia at least four times, but Obama’s list is slightly more severe than the EU. In the latest round Obama sanctioned Igor Sechin, Putin’s right hand man and the president of Rosneft, Russia’s largest petroleum company. Rosneft holds lucrative contracts with ExxonMobil, America’s largest gas company, and British Petroleum owns 20% of the company’s shares. Neither side has touched Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas giant, or its CEO Alexei Miller.
Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko is going to be in Poland and Obama will meet with him personally.
“We very much admired that the people of Ukraine have turned out in huge numbers to elect President-elect Poroshenko,” said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes. “We’ve admired his commitment to pursue dialogue and to aim to reduce tensions and put Ukraine on a positive path.”
Poroshenko will also travel to Normandy, but the Kremlin made it clear Putin will not meet with him.
In between Poland and Normandy will be a trip to Brussels for a meeting of the G-7 leaders: US, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan. This was originally the G-8, but after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, the group kicked out Russia and moved the annual meeting from Sochi, Russia to Belgium.