News / Europe

Obama Reassures Eastern European Allies of US Commitment

Obama Reassures Europe Allies, Says US No Threat to Russiai
Luis Ramirez
June 03, 2014 4:30 PM
President Barack Obama is in Poland where he has offered reassurances of U.S. support to eastern European allies, and he also said he is not interested in threatening Russia. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez is traveling with the president and has this report from Warsaw.
Watch related video report by VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez from Warsaw
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama assured Poland and its eastern European neighbors on Tuesday that the U.S. commitment to their security was sacrosanct at the start of a four-day trip meant to show U.S. resolve after the Russian intervention in Ukraine.

Standing with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama said the U.S. plans to send more military equipment and rotate additional U.S. troops into the region. He called on lawmakers in Washington to provide the $1 billion in funding to sustain the effort.

The European Reassurance Initiative
  • Increases U.S. military exercises, training and rotational presence across Europe
  • Deploys planners to augment allies' training and strategic planning capabilities
  • Increases responsiveness of U.S. forces to reinforce NATO
  • Increases U.S. Navy participation in NATO naval force deployments, including in Black and Baltic seas
  • Builds the partner capabilities of Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine so they can work better with the U.S. and NATO

Source: White House
If approved, the funding for the European Reassurance Initiative will be used to increase military exercises and training missions on the continent, as well as rotations of air and ground forces, the White House said.

Officials said Obama was also seeking to ramp up U.S. Navy participation in NATO deployments in the Black and Baltic seas, plus working to boost the military capacity of non-NATO countries that sit on Russia's border, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.

NATO praised the U.S. announcement Tuesday, saying that Washington's leadership in the alliance was needed.
"I really appreciate the American leadership in taking reassurance measures. The United States has reacted swiftly after Russia's illegal military actions in Ukraine," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO members' defense ministers.

Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6
Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6
Obama trip to Europe, June 3-6

First stop: Poland

Obama landed in Warsaw on Tuesday, his first stop on a three-nation tour of Europe.

He wasted no time in saying why he came to Poland.

"I'm starting the visit here because our commitment to Poland's security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct," Obama said.

Ukraine and its eastern European allies, including Poland, have been pushing Washington and EU leaders to impose harsher economic sanctions against entire sectors of Russia's economy for the Kremlin's perceived support of pro-Russia militants in eastern Ukraine.

Obama addressed those calls directly by saying that Russia faced further punitive measures unless it put more pressure on rebels in eastern Ukraine, may of whom are believed to have entered the country from Russia, to halt their insurgency.

“We agree that further Russian provocation will be met with further cost to Russia, including, if necessary, additional sanctions,” he said.

Obama called upon Russia to use its influence to urge militants in eastern Ukraine to support peace, and to help prevent the flow of weapons and fighters into the region.

Election anniversary

The president will join the Poles in celebrating on Wednesday the 25th anniversary of the election victory that brought Poland's Solidarity movement power and ended more than four decades of Soviet-imposed communist rule.

At that time, the U.S. supported the Polish people's struggle for freedom from Moscow's influence and now Obama is back, offering reassurances that it stands behind Poland in the face of new Russian aggression in the region.

Obama, who meets Ukraine President-elect Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday,  said he wants both the U.S. and Ukraine to have good relations with Russia.

But “the sovereignty of Ukraine should not be sacrificed for that relationship," Obama said.

"Basic principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty and freedom, the ability for a people to make their own determinations about their country’s future is the cornerstone of the peace and security that we have seen in Europe over the last several decades and that is threatened by Russian actions in Crimea and now Russian activity in eastern Ukraine," Obama said.

"We want to make sure that we stand with the people of countries that are simply seeking to choose their own destinies," he added.
Pictures of Lech Walesa leading the 1980 strike that gave rise to the Solidarity freedom movement, top and of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki flashing a v-sign in 1989, bottom on display in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, June 2,Pictures of Lech Walesa leading the 1980 strike that gave rise to the Solidarity freedom movement, top and of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki flashing a v-sign in 1989, bottom on display in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, June 2,
Pictures of Lech Walesa leading the 1980 strike that gave rise to the Solidarity freedom movement, top and of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki flashing a v-sign in 1989, bottom on display in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, June 2,
Pictures of Lech Walesa leading the 1980 strike that gave rise to the Solidarity freedom movement, top and of Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki flashing a v-sign in 1989, bottom on display in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, June 2,

NATO allies' defense spending

While he said the European Reassurance Initiative demonstrates America's "unshakeable commitment" to its NATO allies, Obama also called upon those members to "step up" and do their fair share.

He said European allies have a responsibility to boost defense spending in return for U.S. protection amid new instability in Europe.

"We have seen a steady decline in European defense spending, that has to change," Obama said.

"The United States is proud to do its share of the defense of the transatlantic alliance ... but we can't do it alone and we're going to have to make sure that everybody who is a member of NATO has full membership," Obama said.

"They expect full membership when it comes to their defense and that means they also have to make a contribution that is consistent with full membership," he added.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after a G7 group photo in Brussels, June 5, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama laughs as he looks at British Prime Minister David Cameron during a G7 session in Brussels, June 5, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Belgian King Philippe and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Royal Palace of Brussels, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski show the peace sign at a Freedom Day event at Royal Square in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony marking the "Freedom Day" anniversary in Warsaw's Castle Square, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a ceremony marking the Freedom Day anniversary in Castle Square in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Warsaw, June 4, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski walk away after a group photo with Central and Eastern European Leaders in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski walk to make statements after meeting U.S. and Polish troops at an event featuring F-16 fighter jets in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.

The initiative would also focus on building the military capacities of close friends such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Later Tuesday, Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk discussed the need for Ukraine to reform its energy sector, including its supply of natural gas.

Obama also repeated to Tusk the United States' strong commitment to Poland's security.

Visit ends in Normandy

Obama also meets with U.S. allies Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels at a meeting quickly arranged after leaders decided to boycott a Group of Eight meeting Russia was to host this week in Sochi. The boycott was in response to Russia's incursion into Crimea in March.

He will then travel to France for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II.

Both the Kremlin and White House said no one-on-one meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is being planned while they attend D-Day events.
But senior White House aides have not ruled out an informal encounter - which would be the first for the rivals since Ukraine mushroomed into Europe's worst security crisis in decades.

The Kremlin confirmed that Putin would hold separate talks Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Putin is also to call on French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Thursday -- the three meetings underscoring Europe's continued economic dependence on Russia and refusal to completely ostracise the powerful Kremlin chief.

Obama was asked at the news conference: What would you say to Putin, should the two leaders meet later this week at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing on Normandy?
“We are interested in good relations with Russia. We are not interested in threatening Russia," he said.

"We recognize that Russia has legitimate interests in what happens along its borders and has a long historic relationship with Ukraine. But we also believe that the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty have to be respected, that Russia has violated them, that we are going to maintain sanctions," Obama added.

Obama said he has "always had a business-like relationship" with Putin and has talked to him throughout the Ukraine crisis.
On Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Kyiv to attend Poroshenko's swearing in as the fifth post-Soviet president of Ukraine.
VOA's Luis Ramirez contributed to this report from Warsaw. Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.

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Comment Sorting
by: Anthony Bellchambers from: London UK
June 04, 2014 12:52 PM
Those who operate the levers of power in the United States are not in the White House but elsewhere

'My parents gave me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America ... we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted.' BARACK OBAMA

How idealistic and uplifting was the message from the dynamic, young, black, American senator from Chicago. And how mistaken was he in the years to come as his presidency, upon which so many millions had placed their hopes, crumbled into dust as the votes of ordinary Americans were rendered worthless by the powerful lobbyists who have such influence upon the democratically elected representatives in Congress.

Tragically, the electorate has been effectively disenfranchised and the new President, within his first week, was left in no doubt who really called the shots. By the end of his first term in office, Barack Obama had become an isolated figure, rendered virtually impotent by a congress that danced not to the tune of those who elected him but to the demands of non-American interests clothed in the transparent disguise of a (PAC) Public Affairs Committee - a misleadingly high-sounding, pseudo official-named, lobbying group acting for a foreign government.

The President has had to learn that in 21st century America, democracy is not 'one man one vote'. It is the millions of 'campaign' dollars required to gain control of US legislation, foreign aid and American foreign policy - all of which are now outside the remit of the President who now acts as he is told by Congress which in turn acts exactly as it is instructed by the lobby. This might be an American veto in the UN Security Council or $3 billion in so-called 'aid' to a foreign state for unspecified use - with no accountability.

This, we are told, is democracy 'American style' and the President has had to accept that those who operate the actual levers of power in the United States are not in the White House but elsewhere.

by: Not Again from: Canada
June 03, 2014 9:15 PM
Good to see the Obama administration taking an active role in improving the deterrence capabilities of the European countries, should do the same in Asia/Africa; such a strstegy will go a long ways in ensuring that each time tensions arise the US does not need to be, nor is it expected to be, the first and only responder.
The richer EU countries need to step to the plate and provide more financial assistance, essentially provide funds to sustain the manpower of security forces, so that the Eastern Europeans have the means to protect themselves and their emerging democracies.
Given that much US equipment will become surplus, due to US defence cuts, and major updates of equipment, rather than chop it all up, some of it should go to their Eastern European allies.
There is no question that the US will have to continue to mentor the security forces of its Eastern European allies; this is crucial to maintaining their readiness and effectiveness.
The mentoring of security forces needs to encompass all security issues/aspects, not just military, to ensure these countries remain stable vibrant democracies, that are on the path to prosperity.

by: GregB from: Seattle, WA
June 03, 2014 3:43 PM
I understand we need to try and save money and reduce spending, but people forget how Poland completely had our back during the Middle East "war". I don't know all the facts but every article I read during the Iraqi and Afghanistan "cleanup" was how this Polish division or that Polish division assisted in this or that campaign. Not many other countries helped us out. I think Poland deserves our support and training. How much of the US debt does China own? $1.2 TRILLION? What's a billion dollars towards a really loyal ally?

by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
June 03, 2014 3:16 PM
The US and NATO are back on track. Obama is doing everything right on the present security problem in Europe. Putin hears the message. A rational response to a threat is to show force yourself. This is being done. A crisis has been averted. The investment in European stability of security by the US works to aid all in NATO including the US. Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring about needed change. NATO and the US had become too involved in non-European conflict. NATO's purpose is European and North American security from Russian aggression in its founding principles. Sometimes it is best to stay with fundamental principles in the scope of one's objectives and actions. Something similar, a Pacific Treaty Organization, or PTO, should be planned and signed for the Pacific Region.

by: Bearman from: U.S.A.
June 03, 2014 11:47 AM
Out bankrupting our country by spending money that we do not have. Such a plan.

by: olerilwe from: Klerksdorp(South Africa)
June 03, 2014 11:04 AM
We're heading towards world war III,either Russia or North Korea will the cause of it
In Response

by: Vince from: California
June 03, 2014 3:21 PM
WWIII will not come until we can shoot down nukes and clean up the fallout easily. No need to worry, it's at least 100 years away. It most likely will start over water/resources.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 03, 2014 9:24 AM
OBAMA SAID WHAT? -- The US would spend a billion dollars in an initiative to train the European troops? -- (WHAT?) -- I guess Obama wants the US to train the European troops on how to fight wars like the US does? -- (WHAT?) -- On how the US fights wars, (with overwhelming superior weapons against an enemy with nothing), and then, let the outgunned and outmanned enemy defeat you, or fight you to a draw, like in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? --- (That's a billion dollars wasted, isn't it?).

by: moritz katz from: germany
June 03, 2014 8:47 AM
Wow eye wash who does Obama thinks he is kidding.
Were the cause justified or worthy he would not need to be in Europe selling his side of events. The truth remains the US is responsible for the Ukraine mess to begin with therefore should preach to himself. Why does he not suggest a no fly zone to prevent the Ukraine from attacks on it's own citizens from air craft. Time to own up and get serious Europeans do not want or need a proxy war.
In Response

by: Sam from: USA
June 03, 2014 3:46 PM
USA makes no money on Ukraine, Russia's citizens are invading Ukraine... Not USA....
Stalin created this crisis.... he committed mass genocide in Ukraine and moved in his own people. At 50 you should know of the soviet atrocities and war crimes. At 50 you should remember the fall of the USSR and the start of the mass genocide and rape during the break up of soviet country (Yugoslavia)
At 50 you should remember a wall built by soviets, and their own people climbing over to get to the west.
Stalin created mass genocide of 10 million Ukrainians, then moved in his own people.
At 50 you should have more wisdom, yet my kids have more than you... they are 8 and 12... and I am 30, yet I know more about history and what created recent events...
You are pathetic.
In Response

by: moritz katz from: Germany
June 03, 2014 12:25 PM
Actually Fred from USA I too am an American having made Europe home for over fifty years so have moved beyond thinking and believing everything the US dishes out is true or right. Sorry to say Russia nor any other country payes me even one cent especially since like most seniors I could use additional income. May I suggest you open your mind or listen to move than one media.
In Response

by: Fred from: USA
June 03, 2014 12:08 PM
How much does Russia pay for mouthbreathers like you to go around posting this garbage?

But I digress.

by: Mark from: Virginia
June 03, 2014 6:34 AM
One billion dollars, that is a lot of money and just think of all the good it could have done to help Americans at home; school funding, law enforcement, small business, medicine, research.. but no, we are giving it away to the Poles to make sure they feel safe and secure.

Friends and Allies do not have each other's military forces occupying their homeland. Does the U.S. have Polish forces on American soil? Are there Japanese military forces occupying bases in the United States? The answer to that is No.... Friends and Allies respect each other's borders, they do not allow foreign forces to occupy their soil. If Russia threatens any other part of Europe, then it is a matter for the UNITED NATIONS to handle, not the UNITED STATES.

I am sick of the mentality those in Washington employ, that it is their 'duty' to protect and preserve democracy all around the world. Is Britain a democracy? No, it is a Monarchy, we are not forcing them to change, are we? Friends and Allies do not force a form of government on each other because one side thinks its better than what they have now. Just because it works for one, does not mean it will work for all....
In Response

by: PL from: Poland
June 03, 2014 6:45 PM
The money and so come from Poliand, because we buy from U.S weapons for good money. And what about the fact that we Poles pay for the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Anyway, it is only just a word: money will not.

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