Obama to mark WW I 100th, deliver speech on importance of Europe

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 26, 2014 


Soldiers from the 369th infantry regiment work in a trench in World War I.


President Obama will visit Flanders Field Cemetery in Brussels on Wednesday, participating in a wreath laying and tour to mark the centennial of World War 1.

Following the tour, the President, Prime Minister Di Rupo and His Majesty King Phillipe will deliver statements at the cemetery.

Later, Obama will participate in a European Union-U.S. Summit and talks at NATO, events at at which Ukraine is expected to dominate.

A senior White House official said Obama would talk to the EU about "the continued effort to impose costs on Russia, but also support the people of Ukraine, including the economic assistance package that we are going to be a part of."

With NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, he'll discuss "specific steps that we are taking to reinforce and reassure the security of our Eastern European allies," the official said.

Obama will cap the day with a speech on Europe at the Palais Des Beaux Arts in Brussels. The senior administration official cast the speech as an opportunity for Obama "to step back and look at the current events in Ukraine in a broader context.

"Standing at the heart of Europe in Brussels, the center of the European project, he will be able to speak about the importance of European security, the importance of not just the danger to the people of Ukraine but the danger to the international system that Europe and the United States have invested so much in that is a consequence of Russia’s actions," the official said, adding Obama will "speak more broadly about why the alliance between the United States and Europe is so important to European security but also to the progress of democracy and the sustainment of international law around the world."

The official noted Obama will use the crisis in Ukraine to "reinforce the importance of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace both to the people of the United States and Europe, but also to the world."

The senior administration official expanded on Obama's comments that Russia is a "regional power," saying contrasts between the current situation in Ukraine and the Cold War are wrong.

"Russia does not lead a bloc of nations or a global ideology as the Soviet Union did; that their actions threaten their neighboring states, but the reason that those have such broader consequences is that those actions also undermine the international system more generally," the official said.


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