President Barack Obama is going on a six-day trip next week to patch up widening cracks in U.S. alliances with governments in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
He’s going to begin meeting with European leaders on Monday to deal with their growing worries about Russia’s largely uncontested seizure of Crimea. “I’m sure the situation in the Ukraine will be front and center,” a White House official said.
He’ll hold meetings with presidents and prime ministers in the NATO alliance and then with the wealthy G-7 economic group. The G-7 group included Russia until it was kicked out after the Crimea takeover.
He’ll meet with China’s president on Monday to smooth relations with China, which recently used its new economic and military power to claim to control international airspace between Taiwan and Japan.
On Tuesday, he’ll meet with leaders from Japan and Korea to calm their routine tensions and to show a united front to their neighbor, China. The meeting is “a very important message…. a signal to our commitment to the security of North East Asia,” according to Susan Rice, Obama’s national security coordinator.
The trip may boost Obama’s low rating on foreign policy, but also may keep emerging conflicts contained until after November. That would help him reduce the growing chance of the GOP Senate takeover.
He’s flying into Saudi Arabia on Friday to meet with the Saudi King, who is worried that Obama’s support of anti-Saudi governments in Egypt and Iran is undermining the security of his slowly modernizing autocracy. The Saudi king has already helped remove the Obama-backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, and is now funding rebel attacks against Iran’s Syrian ally.
Obama will also meet with the king of the smaller United Arab Emirates, which is located just a short distance from Iran’s militaristic and expansionist theocracy.
But Obama will have also have time for history, domestic politics and speechifying.
On Wednesday, he’ll give a big speech outlining his thoughts about U.S. and European relations. It will be “the signal speech of the trip,” said Rice.
Also on Wednesday, he’ll make a sobering visit to a World War I battlefield, 100 years after the unexpected industrial-age war wrecked European civilization. The chosen battlefield is Flanders, in Belgium, where mud-soaked British and Canadian soldiers fought German infantry in what would prove to be a futile practice-run for the even bloodier World War II.
He’s expected to tour the Coliseum in Rome on Thursday.
On Thursday, he’ll also visit with the new pope, Francis. They will talk about one of Obama’s talking points for the 2014 election, income inequality. But the pope will likely prod the president for his willingness to deconstruct the evolved basis for Western civilization, such as marriage and respect for human life.
In addition, Obama will hold three press conferences in Europe with foreign leaders.
Those events only allow for a few questions, but Obama will likely be pushed to offer more than symbolic support for Ukraine.
Obama is also expected to hold ceremonial meetings with the leaders of Holland, Belgium and Italy.
He leaves on Monday, and returns on Saturday.