WHITE HOUSE — As Russia consolidates its power over the Crimean region of Ukraine, President Barack Obama is heading to Europe for talks with allies in a bid to pressure Moscow.
That Russia has succeeded in taking over Crimea appears for some to be a foregone conclusion, but Obama is not giving up efforts to end the crisis through sanctions and diplomacy.
“Diplomacy between the United States and Russia continues," the president said. "We've emphasized that Russia still has a different path available - one that de-escalates the situation, and one that involves Russia pursuing a diplomatic solution with the government in Kyiv, with the support of the international community."
The president will talk with his partners about an economic package for Ukraine, but also about further sanctions against Russia. First stop is The Hague.
Unlike previous G8 meetings, absent from the table this time will be Russia. President Obama has invited his G7 counterparts to meet on the sidelines of a Nuclear Security Summit to talk about isolating Moscow.
In that effort, Obama has an unlikely ally - China, which has questioned Russia's actions in Crimea. The U.S. president and China's leader Xi Jinping have a meeting scheduled.
And then it's on to the EU and NATO in Brussels. With no progress visible thus far in U.S. efforts to get Russia to back down, Obama will have a message to deliver to NATO allies.
"America's support for our NATO allies is unwavering," the president said. "We're bound together by our profound Article 5 commitment to defend one another and by a set of shared values that so many generations sacrificed for."
The president's last stop in Europe will be in Rome, for a first-time meeting with Pope Francis to talk about fighting poverty and inequality.
From there, to Saudi Arabia. The war in Syria and Iran's nuclear ambitions are expected to be on the agenda when Obama sits with King Abdullah in what analysts say will be a continuation of U.S. officials' efforts to reaffirm their support for the kingdom.