Russia tops agenda for White House visit by Nordic leaders

Reuters News
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Posted: May 13, 2016 12:08 AM

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The leaders of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland will be treated to the pomp of a White House state visit on Friday, a summit where Russia's military aggression will top the agenda.

President Barack Obama will welcome the leaders for talks focused on pressing global security issues, including the crisis in Syria and Iraq that has led to a flood to migrants in Europe.

Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014 alarmed Russia's Nordic and Baltic neighbors. With NATO considering ways to try to deter further Russian aggression, the White House wants to show support for its northern European allies.

"It is a way of sending a signal that the United States is deeply engaged when it comes to the security of the region, and we will be actively discussing what steps we can collectively take to improve the situation," said Charles Kupchan, Obama's senior director for European affairs.

Kupchan declined comment on specific measures the White House hopes to emerge from the summit.

Obama will be limited in what he can promise by the political calendar, given that his second and final term ends next year on Jan. 20. Americans are set to hold presidential elections on Nov. 8.

The visit will culminate in a star-studded state dinner in a tent with a transparent ceiling, with lighting, flowers and ice sculptures evoking the northern lights.

Pop star Demi Lovato, known for her support of liberal causes, will perform after guests enjoy a main course of ahi tuna, tomato tartare, and red wine braised beef short ribs.

Obama is expected to laud the humanitarian and environmental accomplishments of his guest nations, who have been key supporters of an international deal to curb climate change that the White House sees as a key part of Obama's legacy.

"The president has often said, 'Why can't all countries be like the Nordic countries?'" Kupchan said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton)