Washington: US President Barack Obama will visit Poland and Spain in July in what will likely be his final presidential trip to Europe, a continent that has often presented more problems than opportunities during his term.
The White House said Obama would travel to Warsaw on July 7-9 for “his fifth and final summit with NATO leaders,” before making his first trip to Spain.
During his nearly eight years in office, Obama has at times had difficult relationships with America’s oldest allies.
For most of his first term, Europe was frustratingly slow to contain sovereign debt crises that were fed by and prolonged the Great Recession.
Relations with Europe were further tested by Obama’s “pivot to Asia” — which was widely seen as capping a decades-long strategic shift from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Obama has publicly said it was a mistake to depend on European allies to manage Libya’s political recovery from decades of Moamer Kadhafi’s dictatorial rule.
Five years after Kadhafi was killed, the country is still in turmoil and is now a base for the Islamic State group.
NATO leaders are expected to discuss support for efforts to control the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
They will also consider NATO support for operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, providing cover for AWACS early warning and control aircraft to be deployed.
– Provocative intercepts -Continued tensions with Russia will also feature prominently.
Relations between Moscow and the West were plunged to the worst point since the end of the Cold War by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The United States and its allies have also been irked by Russia’s support for separatists in the east of Ukraine, a de facto partitioning of the country.
Meanwhile, Russian aircraft have launched a series of provocative intercepts of NATO, Swedish and other aircraft.
Obama has announced an increased US troop presence in eastern Europe, with continuous rotations of an additional armored brigade beginning in early 2017.
NATO is likely to agree to rotate four brigades into eastern Europe, officials said.
Obama will also hold bilateral talks with Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda to “reaffirm the American commitment to Poland’s security, and exchange views on the broader security environment in Europe,” the White House said.
Duda’s government is deeply controversial, accused by critics of breaking European Union norms on democracy by reforming the constitutional court.
Obama will also hold talks with EU leaders in Warsaw, hoping for movement on stalled transatlantic trade talks, although a breakthrough before he leaves office seems unlikely.
In Spain Obama will meet King Felipe VI and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Spaniards will go to the polls on June 26, the country’s second general election in six months.
December 20 elections were inconclusive but marked an end to Spain’s traditional two-party system.
Spain has never had a coalition government and parties have tried in vain since the polls to cobble together an alliance able to win a parliamentary vote of confidence.
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