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Obama: U.S. to boost military presence in Europe

By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:43 a.m. HST, Jun 03, 2014

WARSAW, Poland >> WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to boost U.S. military deployments and exercises throughout Europe, an effort costing as much as $1 billion to demonstrate American solidarity with a continent rattled by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

But even as Obama warned that Moscow could face further punishments, leaders of Britain, France and Germany were lining up to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at week's end.

Those one-on-one meetings would appear to send a mixed message about the West's approach to relations with Russia, given that the same leaders are also boycotting a summit Putin had been scheduled to host this week.

Obama does not plan to hold a formal meeting with Putin while both attend events Friday marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that hastened the end of World War II, though the two leaders are likely to have some interaction. The U.S. president suggested there was no contradiction between efforts to isolate Russia and engaging directly with Putin.

"The fact of the matter is that Russia is a significant country with incredibly gifted people, resources, an enormous land mass, and they rightfully play an important role on the world stage and in the region," Obama said during a news conference with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. He added that it could be possible for Putin to "rebuild some of the trust that's been shattered during this past year" but said that would take time.

Western leaders, including Obama, have spoken with Putin by phone multiple times since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and stationed tens of thousands of troops on its border with the former Soviet republic. But until this week, they've avoided face-to-face meetings with Putin to avoid giving the impression that the Russian leader can slide back into normal relationships with U.S. and European leaders that have accused him of stoking instability in Ukraine.

Putin's meetings this week will be closely watched by Poland and other Central and Eastern European nations. Many countries in the regions have been pressing for broader NATO assistance to serve as a buffer in case Russia tries to advance beyond Ukraine.

Obama's announcement Tuesday of a "European Reassurance Initiative," costing up to $1 billion, was aimed at quelling some of that anxiety. It marks a significant departure from a two-decade trend toward a smaller U.S. military presence in Europe amid a shift by the Obama administration to a more visible and active naval and air power presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Just three years ago the Pentagon downgraded the top U.S. Army Europe commander from a four-star to a three-star general.

If the U.S. Congress approves the funding, the Pentagon would ramp up its air and ground force rotations in Europe, as well as boost military exercises and position more equipment on the continent.

The plan also calls for increasing the U.S. Navy participation in NATO deployments in the Black and Baltic Seas and helping non-NATO nations such as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine bolster their own defenses. But key details of the effort were unclear, including how big the U.S. troop increase on the continent might be.

Obama said the fund would be "a powerful demonstration of America's unshakeable commitment to our NATO allies."

Komorowski, appearing with the American president, announced that Poland intended to increase its own defense budget to 2 percent of its gross domestic product, and he urged other NATO nations to do the same.

Obama arrived in Warsaw for the start of a three-country swing through Europe that takes him next to Belgium for a meeting of the Group of 7 major industrial nations, then on to France for the D-Day commemorations.

His itinerary in Poland was filled with stops aimed at highlighting the West's ties to this former communist nation and its neighbors. Moments after Air Force One landed in Warsaw, Obama strode across the tarmac to view four F-16 fighter jets and the American and Polish airmen and soldiers who cooperate on NATO missions. Obama and Komorowski also convened a security meeting and dinner with leaders from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia.

The centerpiece of Obama's visit to Warsaw comes Wednesday, when he'll speak at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Poland's first free election and its emergence from communism. Ukraine's new president-elect, Petro Poroshenko, will also attend the event and hold talks with Obama, underscoring Washington's efforts to underscore the legitimacy of the fledgling government in Kiev.

Putin is expected to dine with French President Francois Hollande Thursday night and hold separate meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

All three Western leaders are part of the coalition of wealthy nations that decided earlier this year to boycott the Group of 8 summit Putin had planned to host in Sochi, Russia, the site of this year's Winter Olympics. Instead, they scheduled the upcoming Group of 7 meeting in Brussels, pointedly excluding Putin.

The G-7 leaders are expected to discuss the question of which Russian actions in Ukraine could set off further U.S. and European Union sanctions -- either expanding existing penalties or levying deeper penalties against the Russian economy. Unless Russia significantly escalates the situation in Ukraine, it's unclear whether European leaders have any appetite for more sanctions given their broad economic ties to Russia.


Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler and Matthew Lee in Warsaw and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

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samidunn wrote:
The world is a more dangerous place today then it was three days ago. Thanks to Obama.
on June 3,2014 | 07:19AM
serious wrote:
"Russia--Mitch, you don't understand, the cold war has been over for 20 years."
on June 3,2014 | 09:04AM
HD36 wrote:
The EU has a GDP of $17 trillion—-a figure approximately 9X that of Russia. If there is any one over there who actually believes that Putin is about to mobilize his troops on a reverse of Hitler’s march through the Ukraine and back into central Europe, let them make their case and take up a collection from the purportedly threatened states.
on June 3,2014 | 10:05AM
HD36 wrote:
True. The EU has a GDP of $17 trillion—-a figure approximately 9X that of Russia. If there is any one over there who actually believes that Putin is about to mobilize his troops on a reverse of Hitler’s march through the Ukraine and back into central Europe, let them make their case and take up a collection from the purportedly threatened states.
on June 3,2014 | 10:06AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
All this because Putin make Obama look the fool. How about we take care of America instead of bolstering our NATO allies in Europe, all of whom can take care of themselves.
on June 3,2014 | 07:27AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Nothing Obama does passes the daily GOPhers nozzles. These retired hole diggers come out if their holes in the morning, grab their SA, then scurry back down. They use Farmer Johns wifi to text rude comments. Then they eat the farmers carrots from the comfort of their muddy dungeons.
on June 3,2014 | 08:34AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Grab their SA? Are you suggesting you can get real news from the SA?
on June 3,2014 | 09:25AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I think your metaphors need a little more work, Boss. The whole carrot & dungeon thing was kind of mixed up.
on June 3,2014 | 09:40AM
HD36 wrote:
Europe has a GDP of 17 trillion. This is 9x that of Russia. The United States is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. The US has become a permanent warfare state. Scientist from from around the world have concluded that even a 1% nuclear exchange would create so much dust as to block out the sun for about 3 years causing massive starvation and a nuclear winter. This move makes clear that the neocons are in charge of the "peace president."
on June 3,2014 | 08:43AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
It takes Russia making big body and taking over parts of the Ukraine for Barry to finally man up and drop the delusional notion that it's OK for the US to lessen its military presence throughout the world. Rrriigghhtt..... All you Dem/liberal lovers, you realize you elected this guy for that reason (among others), and now look at where it's left us-- back to where we should have been, with a robust military protecting our interests and securing the peace throughout the world. Time to admit you were wrong Barry and all you Obama-Lovers.....
on June 3,2014 | 09:03AM
AhiPoke wrote:
What? Barry won the Nobel Peace Prize. Barry drew redlines whenever tyrants got aggressive. Barry gets "madder than hell" when things go wrong. Barry was unaware of problems until he saw it on the evening news so why should he be held responsible. Barry promised he would get to the bottom of the problems in Benghazi, IRS, VA, etc. Did I leave anything out? Barry is the bestest. Why would we want any other president?
on June 3,2014 | 09:32AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The left hand clearly does not know what the right hand is doing in this administration. Just last week the Obama administration announced the closure of 21 military installations/facilities in Europe and now he announces a plan in boost US military presence in Europe. Go figure.
on June 3,2014 | 09:18AM
mrluke wrote:
Agreed. After decades of downsizing our presence and closing bases there, we're gonna build up again? I thought the Big Bad Bear was no longer a threat!
on June 3,2014 | 09:38AM
Ronin006 wrote:
If Russia should attack Turkey from the rear, I know the US will not help but I wonder if Grease would.
on June 3,2014 | 09:22AM
false wrote:
Johnnie Travolta?
on June 3,2014 | 09:27AM
iwanaknow wrote:
A Billion here, a Billion there, and soon it adds up to serious coin...................just keep printing those dollars, our unborn can take care of the bills incurred today.
on June 3,2014 | 09:35AM
jussayin wrote:
Putin is making Obama look silly. He and other countries know that Obama is just talk. And that's why the Asian allies are concerned and increasing their respective military. If you want both points of view, The Week is a fast weekly read of current issues and events. Funny, eh. We pull military out of one country and everyone goes 'hurray'. Then we put more military in another country(s) and we go 'okay, that makes sense'.
on June 3,2014 | 09:36AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Look at the report below. "Obama on Bergdahl: We Get Soldiers Back, Period" What he forgot to add is that Bergdahl is a Muslim and Taliban sympathizer who deserted his Army platoon after making anti-American statements. So he traded five dangerous terrorist for a deserter, Period. Go figure that one.
on June 3,2014 | 09:57AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Another day has gone by and the SA continues to ignore the major story of Obama's trading five Taliban terrorists for an American traitor/deserter. This is/should be a majot story and not even a mentioned. Why? I'm not sure but it could be that they are trying to protect the man they endorsed. If so, why don't they man up and state their support and argument for what I think is another major blunder.
on June 3,2014 | 05:17PM
HD36 wrote:
The EU has a GDP of $17 trillion—-a figure approximately 9X that of Russia. If there is any one over there who actually believes that Putin is about to mobilize his troops on a reverse of Hitler’s march through the Ukraine and back into central Europe, let them make their case and take up a collection from the purportedly threatened states.
on June 3,2014 | 10:05AM
MrMililani wrote:
The Nato countries in Europe have enough military. Our country can't keep sending troops to every trouble spot around the world. Think how much money could be spend on our domestic infrastructure if we didn't have to get involved.
on June 3,2014 | 10:37AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Think so? Think again. Why do you think Putin has been so bold lately, b/c he knows NATO's ranks are thin and Western Europe is wimpy. Ever since the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, Europe has gone to sleep. Nothing like a big, bad bear pounding on your door, chomping at the bit, to wake you up....
on June 3,2014 | 11:43AM
sailfish1 wrote:
Let Europe take care of their own problems. If their military is weak, they better beef it up quick or be eaten by the "bear". The U.S. needs to firstly insure that we remain strong enough to defend ourselves because our "allies" in Europe and Asia are not going to be helping us much when things go bad.
on June 3,2014 | 12:09PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
sailfish, isolationism ended in the early part of the 20th Century, not happening. Besides, as the only superpower, we have to react in some way. To not react is to implicitly condone Russia's actions, however misguided they may be....
on June 3,2014 | 04:53PM
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