Obama: Europe not an East-West battleground

4:04 AM, Mar 24, 2014   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- President Obama has told a Dutch newspaper that despite Russia's annexation of Crimea he does not want Europe to be viewed as a battleground between the East and West.

"That's the kind of thinking that should have ended with the Cold War," Obama said. "On the contrary, it's important that Ukraine have good relations with the United States, Russia, and Europe."

The president was speaking to the de Volkskrant newspaper ahead of his arrival in Amsterdam, where he is kicking off a six-day overseas trip that will also take him to Belgium, Italy and Saudi Arabia.

He is in The Netherlands for a long-planned nuclear summit where he will also meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but the dispute with Russia is likely to dominate his agenda amid fears Moscow may try to move deeper into Ukraine.

The Group of Seven industrialized economies - the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan - scheduled a last-minute minute meeting to discuss Ukraine on the sidelines of the nuclear summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the conference in The Hague although his foreign minister will.

Obama's comments were published in the Dutch daily as reports said pro-Russian forces on Monday seized control of a third Ukrainian military base in Crimea. Russia has been steadily taking over most of Ukraine's military bases on the Black Sea peninsula.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said when Russian troops seized the marine base in the port of Feodosia on Monday they detained up to 80 Ukrainian servicemen on-site and took two injured Ukrainians away by helicopter.

"If Russia continues to escalate the situation, we need to be prepared to impose a greater cost," Obama said in the interview, conceding that the sanctions the U.S. and Europe unleashed on Russia may affect the global economy.

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