Ukraine Crisis Will Overshadow Nuclear Summit

Sunday, 23 Mar 2014 11:18 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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President Barack Obama and his international allies are heading to The Hague for a nuclear security summit Monday, but the crisis in Ukraine will likely overshadow the event and spotlight the difficulty of achieving the president's hope of Western unity on economic sanctions against Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting will include national leaders from several European countries, along with Canada and Japan, reports The New York Times. The Hague summit is part of Obama's week-long overseas trip, which will include a meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday and a stopover in Saudi Arabia Friday.

But National Security Adviser Susan Rice said his trip will be overshadowed by the situation in Ukraine.

And while the Ukrainian situation will likely come under discussion, the world's leaders are convening for another purpose — to figure out how to keep nuclear materials out of terrorist control, reports NPR.

But the question of unity among the allies will likely come up during discussions concerning Ukraine, but a consensus may not be reached on summits or other actions, reports the Times. European countries' economies are tied in with Russia's, and it may be difficult for Obama to convince them to cooperate with the United States over Ukraine.

The meeting will "expose the limitations within the European Union," said Michael J. Geary, an assistant professor of modern Europe at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Geary said the bloc needs a consensus among its 28 member states, noting they all have have differing ways of dealing with Russia.

Matthew Cottee, a nuclear security expert at King's College in London, told NPR that Ukraine is a large enough issue that it will likely overshadow any other discussion at the Hague Monday.

He noted that it will also be hard to predict what the Russians will do, or to even achieve all the goals of the nuclear summit without the Russians' participation.

Obama's sanctions are designed to create problems for Russia's elite, who are loyalists of Putin's, while doing little to disrupt the global economy.

But sanctions against Russia are being seen as the best solution to bringing a resolution to the Ukraine crisis. European countries, though, are deeply entwined with Russia.

Russian billionaires often visit Britain, and Germany depends on the country for a third of its energy supply and sells machinery and cars to Russia.

Further, Italy depends on Russia for about 28 percent of its energy supply, and France is ready to deliver military ships to the Kremlin.

Japan is also concerned with China's ties with Moscow, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the first Group of 7 leader to visit Ukraine since its troubles began.

Meanwhile, new members of NATO, including Poland, want to be sure the alliance will protect them if Russia expands its operations.

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