President Obama: Putin 'has choice to make'

 

President Obama would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin he “has a choice to make” if the two leaders meet in person during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Obama told reporters in Poland on Tuesday.

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Obama said he would ask Putin to get pro-Russian separatists within Ukraine to “stand down,” meet with Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko and recognize that Poroshenko's election was legitimate.

"I think it is possible for us to try to rebuild some of the trust that's been shattered,” Obama said at a joint news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Bronisław Komorowski at the beginning of a week-long swing through Europe.

Obama said he would also ask Putin to “help facilitate the kind of dialogue across the Russia-Ukraine border” that could calm tensions, and continue a drawdown of Russian troops.

Describing his relationship with Putin as “business-like,” Obama said he was “interested in good relations” with Moscow.

“We are not interested in threatening Russia,” he added.

At the same time, Obama said he believed “that the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty have to be protected, that Russia has violated them.”

“We have prepared economic costs on Russia that can escalate if in fact we continue to see Russia actively destabilizing one of its neighbors,” Obama said.

Obama and Putin do not have any plans for a formal meeting while they are in Normandy on Friday, although both will attend a ceremony and leaders’ meal.

“I’m sure I’ll see him,” Obama said. “He’s going to be there.”

Both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande are scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Putin. Obama said he hoped those allies would carry a similar message.

Obama’s comments on Putin came shortly after announcing plans to ask Congress to authorize $1 billion in defense aid for central and eastern Europe, areas that have been shaken by the Russian incursion into Ukraine. The U.S. would increase joint air, land and sea exercises and help boost the military capacities of European countries sharing a border with Russia.

Obama said the initiative would be a “powerful demonstration of America’s unshakable commitment” to its European allies.

—This report was updated at 8:18 a.m.