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June 3, 2014

Obama heads to Europe to reassure allies

WARSAW, Poland — On the heels of a major speech vowing to preserve U.S. power overseas, President Barack Obama is visiting European capitals this week on a now-familiar mission — reassuring allies that the U.S. has not forgotten its role in guaranteeing their security.

Obama’s four-day trip to Poland, Belgium and France will be packed with diplomacy — and potential drama — as Western leaders rattled by Russia’s meddling in Ukraine navigate an uneasy new relationship with Moscow and look to Washington for support.

The reassurance tour is a something like Obama’s swing through Asia last month, when Japan, South Korea and other allies nervous about China’s growing clout sought similar promises from a U.S. president increasingly under pressure for his reluctance to wield U.S. military power in distant conflicts.

Here in Poland, Obama will meet Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko and discuss how tp bolster the fragile government as it battles separatists it says are backed by Russia.

He may run into Russian President Vladimir Putin at a long-planned ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion landings in France. The face-to-face interaction would be their first since Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March, sparking an international crisis.

The White House says Obama is focused on expressing support for Poroshenko’s incoming government and on pressuring Putin into dialogue on Ukraine. Recent signs that the Russian leader is interested in easing tensions are welcome but tenuous, said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

“We see these separatists in the east and the south, who we believe enjoy the support of the Russian government, continue their efforts to commit acts of violence and to destabilize Ukraine,” Rhodes said. He said Moscow could sway those militias and move toward peace talks.

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