US President Barack Obama will meet Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko in Poland next week, during a European tour dedicated to shoring up regional security amid the worst East-West crisis in years.
The meeting will come less than two weeks after the pro-European Poroshenko, a chocolate tycoon, was elected in the shadow of a showdown between Washington and Moscow over the fate of Ukraine that has brought relations to their lowest level since the Cold War.
The meeting will take place in Warsaw, where Obama will pay a highly symbolic visit to attend celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first post-communist elections.
“This is an important time for President Obama to affirm directly to president-elect Poroshenko our commitment to… Ukraine,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser.
Rhodes said Obama would support Ukraine’s efforts to reduce tension and pursue dialogue and the unity of the country.
“We very much admired the people of Ukraine who turned out in huge numbers to elect president-elect Poroshenko. We have admired his commitment to dialogue,” Rhodes said.
“This will be an important time for the president to check in directly.”
Also in Warsaw, Obama will hold talks with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
He and Komorowski will also host a meeting with the leaders of eastern and central European states — formerly in the orbit of the former Soviet Union — including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia.
The meetings in Poland form part of a wider European trip for Obama, who is concentrating on reinvigorating the NATO alliance following the trauma of the Ukraine crisis and underlining “iron clad” US security guarantees to allies, Rhodes said.
The president is also keen to focus on efforts to diversify Europe’s energy supplies, which are currently deeply reliant on Russia — a fact that gives Moscow leverage during regional security crises.
After spending two days in Poland, Obama will move on to the G7 summit in Belgium and talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande.
He will also travel to Normandy for the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings of allied troops during World War II, where he will come come face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, from whom he has been estranged over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
But there are no plans for Obama to hold a formal bilateral meeting with the Russian leader.
The US leader will be at the Elysee Palace, Hollande’s official residence, on the same day Putin also holds talks there, on Thursday.
There are no plans for a three-way meeting, however, Rhodes said.
Washington has been pursuing a campaign to isolate Putin over its annexation of Crimea — which has included the cancellation of the G8 summit in Sochi next month, and Moscow’s de-facto expulsion from the group.