US President Barack Obama is on a weeklong trip to Europe to focus on global progress in nuclear security. His itinerary also includes Saudi Arabia where he will meet the Saudi leadership and reassure Kingdom of the US commitment to the region. But his agenda has had to include the recent crisis in Ukraine and his hopes that European allies will increase support for measures to isolate Russia.
While back home, with mid-term elections in November, critics are suggesting that the president hasn’t been tough enough on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, the president attended a Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands; this included a hastily arranged side meeting of the top seven industrialized countries to focus on how best to punish Russia and support the Ukrainian government. The G-7 members include Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
He also met with China’s President Xi Jinping (who last week hosted First Lady Michelle Obama on her China trip with her two daughters and her mother).
The president is using this trip to not only re-establish relations with powerful European allies, but also Asia and the Middle East — all strategically crucial relations with their own significant issues.
Secretary of State John Kerry has accompanied the president, which clearly emphasizes the importance the US places on this trip.
Kerry will hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Tuesday the president held a meeting with Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. He also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
On Wednesday, the president will travel to Brussels, and will mark the centennial anniversary of World War I by visiting Flanders Field, an important WW1 battlefield, where many Americans lost their lives. While there, he will have a tour of the battlefield and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony, and meet with King Philippe of Belgium and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo;.
Obama’s many speeches include one at the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels, where he is expected to discuss his perspective on European security and the US relations with the G-7. He will also meet with NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen.
On Thursday, Obama travels to Rome to meet with Pope Francis, whom the White House said shares the president’s commitment “to fighting global poverty and growing inequality” throughout the world.
While in Rome, the president will also manage to squeeze in a tour of the Coliseum, while also meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. He will also hold his first bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy.
From there the president will fly to Riyadh to meet with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and discuss regional and global issues.
The two leaders are expected to discuss US efforts in Syria, nuclear negotiations with Iran, and the Mideast peace talks. The president returns to the US on Saturday.