Speaking at a press conference Wednesday in Warsaw, Poland, President Obama stated that the US needs to stand “solidly behind” Ukraine as it moves into this new stage of its leadership. These remarks came during a two-day ceremony to celebrate 25 years of Polish independence, following Obama’s first formal meeting with Ukraine’s president-elect, Petro Poroshenko.
Obama declared himself deeply impressed by Poroshenko, and commented that he admired the latter’s pragmatism as a businessman, believing him capable of handling Ukraine’s complex and delicate economic situation.
Nevertheless, Ukraine’s economy is not, and cannot be the sole focus of the US’s support. Burgeoning Russian involvement in Ukraine is also a top area of discussion for the US, Obama acknowledged. In this vein, the president unveiled the European Reassurance Initiative, a $1 billion fund intended to bolster the security of NATO allies through increased training exercises, pre-positioning of military equipment abroad, and building the capacity of countries such as Ukraine and Moldova to partner with NATO and the US.
The president also cautioned that further Russian aggression against Ukraine or other NATO allies “will be met with further costs for Russia, including if necessary, additional sanctions.” Poroshenko then thanked the US for its support of Ukraine (e.g. its public objection to the annexation of Crimea).
Obama’s visit to Poland kicked off a week of international involvement for the president, who flew from Warsaw to Brussels yesterday to participate as a world leader in the G7 Summit. Due to the efforts of the president and his allies in the G7, Russia’s participation in the summit was suspended as a response to the country’s involvement in Ukrainian affairs. That suspension subsequently resulted in the relocation of this year’s planned G8 summit—now, in Russia’s absence, a G7 summit—from Sochi to Brussels.
Ukraine and Russia’s involvement in the region will certainly play a large role in the summit’s discussions. A substantial portion of the talks thus far have dealt with Russia—the summit’s newly absent member. Despite the fact that, according to German chancellor Angela Merkel, the G7 participants are ‘fully behind’ the new Ukraine leadership, there nevertheless seems to be a lack of consensus on the question of future sanctions for Russia.
Today, the G7 continues its discussions of Russia’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine, in addition to other pressing matters, including the need to prioritize security of energy supplies and examine world trade and economy.