Barack Obama urges EU leaders to stand firm against Russia and IS

President Barack Obama. Picture: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Barack Obama. Picture: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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US president Barack Obama has called on European leaders to stand firm against Russia, Islamic State and other challenges facing Nato - even as the UK is poised to exit from the European Union.

In a column published in the Financial Times, he argued that the UK’s looming exit makes the Nato alliance a more important force for co-operation in the region.

“I believe that our nations must summon the political will, and make concrete commitments, to meet these urgent challenges. I believe we can - but only if we stand united as true allies and partners,” he wrote.

The president’s words were published as he opened two days of meetings with European Union and Nato leaders in Warsaw.

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Mr Obama began his day by meeting European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. The White House said he was urging the leaders to step carefully in the exit negotiations, which have not yet been formally triggered by Britain and could take up to two years.

“I am confident that the UK and the EU will be able to agree on an orderly transition to a new relationship, as all our countries stay focused on ensuring financial stability and growing the global economy,” Mr Obama wrote.

Mr Obama’s trip, which includes a stop in Spain, is expected to be his last trip to Europe as president.

The task of trying to shape the talks to serve US interests and mitigate damage will largely fall to his successor, but in his remaining time in office, he has sought to use his popularity in Europe and his presidential megaphone to defend international co-operation and the “European project” and will urge other leaders to speak up more forcefully.

The White House has acknowledged that Mr Obama’s message has to some degree failed to persuade on both sides of the Atlantic. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has suggested he would seek to pull back from Europe, even hinting the US could withdraw from Nato, the 67-year-old cornerstone of European security.

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His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has suggested she would continue, if not deepen, Mr Obama’s approach, but she has rejected the president’s push for massive multinational free-trade agreements.

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