Obama to visit Estonia to reassure Baltic allies

President Obama will head to Estonia in early September in a bid to reassure Baltic allies spooked by Russia's incursion into Ukraine, the White House announced Friday.

The president plans to meet with Estonian President Toomas Ilves and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas while in Tallinn, according to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. The visit will come ahead of the president's travel to Wales for a Sept. 4 NATO summit.


Obama will also participate in a summit with Ilves, Latvian President Andris Bērziņš and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė "to discuss ongoing cooperation on regional security and policies that support economic growth, and to discuss collective defense," according to the White House.

"In light of recent developments in Ukraine, the United States has taken steps to reassure allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and this trip is a chance to reaffirm our ironclad commitment," Hayden said.

The announcement comes as Ukrainian officials began inspecting a convoy of more than 250 Russian trucks purportedly containing humanitarian aid for those affected by clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

Kiev has expressed concern the trucks could contain military equipment, in a covert attempt by Moscow to launch an invasion.

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. had warned Moscow that it "has no right to send vehicles or persons or cargo of any kind into Ukraine without the government's explicit permission."

Earlier this month, the U.S. and European allies announced the broadest sanctions yet against Russian energy, defense and banking firms over concerns Moscow is continuing to provide military aid to rebels. Those rebels are believed to have downed a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, possibly with Russian assistance, in an incident last month.

The Kremlin responded by announcing retaliatory sanctions barring the import of agricultural products from the U.S. and Europe.