US plans $1b boost in military presence in Europe, Obama says

U.S. President Barack Obama is welcomed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, June 3, 2014.
Standing with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, Obama said the U.S. plans to send more military equipment and rotate additional U.S. troops into the region. He called on lawmakers in Washington to provide the $1 billion in funding to sustain the effort.
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.
He has also said more sanctions are being prepared against Russia if the West continues to see it destabilising Ukraine.
Obama announced the initiative on Tuesday during a visit to Polish capital of Warsaw, his first stop on a three-country tour through Europe, calling for the US Congress\’ backing on the issue.
Tension remains high in eastern Ukraine, a day after hundreds of pro-Russian separatists attacked a border guard base in Luhansk city following reports of air raids by Ukraine\’s army on rebel positions.
Speaking in an aircraft hangar at Warsaw airport where he met US airmen taking part in a joint programme with the Polish air force, Obama said US commitments to Poland and the region were a cornerstone of the US’ own security.
"As friends and allies we stand united together," he said.
Obama also said that more sanctions were being prepared against Russia if West continued to see it destabilising Ukraine.
The White House said in a statement that the funding would be used to increase military exercises and training missions, as well as rotations of air and ground forces, on the continent.
The statement said Obama was also seeking to reinforce US navy participation in NATO deployments in the Black and Baltic Seas, plus working to boost the military capacity of non-NATO countries that sit on Russia\’s border, including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, Reuters news agency reported.
Obama would be seeking the support of the US Congress for the plan, it said.
The military assistance proposed by the White House, called the European Reassurance Initiative, is to include greater US participation in training and exercises, deploying US military planners, and more persistent naval deployments in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, on Russia\’s doorstep.
The US statements came a day after hundreds of pro-Russian separatists fired rocket-propelled grenades at a border guard base in Luhansk, prompting a reported deployment of air support by government forces.
At least five of the attackers were killed in fighting around the base, a spokesman for the guards told the AP news agency.
Later Tuesday, Obama and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk discussed the need for Ukraine to reform its energy sector, including its supply of natural gas.
Obama also repeated to Tusk the United States\’ strong commitment to Poland\’s security.
Obama also meets with U.S. allies Wednesday and Thursday in Brussels at a meeting quickly arranged after leaders decided to boycott a Group of Eight meeting Russia was to host this week in Sochi. The boycott was in response to Russia\’s incursion into Crimea in March.
He will then travel to France for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II.
Both the Kremlin and White House said no one-on-one meeting between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is being planned while they attend D-Day events.
But senior White House aides have not ruled out an informal encounter – which would be the first for the rivals since Ukraine mushroomed into Europe\’s worst security crisis in decades.
The Kremlin confirmed that Putin would hold separate talks Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Putin is also to call on French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Thursday — the three meetings underscoring Europe\’s continued economic dependence on Russia and refusal to completely ostracise the powerful Kremlin chief.
Obama was asked at the news conference: What would you say to Putin, should the two leaders meet later this week at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing on Normandy?
“We are interested in good relations with Russia. We are not interested in threatening Russia," he said.
"We recognize that Russia has legitimate interests in what happens along its borders and has a long historic relationship with Ukraine. But we also believe that the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty have to be respected, that Russia has violated them, that we are going to maintain sanctions," Obama added.
Obama said he has "always had a business-like relationship" with Putin and has talked to him throughout the Ukraine crisis.
Source: Agencies
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