Obama, NATO Chief Decry ‘Increasingly Aggressive’ Russian Stance

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President Barack Obama returns to the White House April 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama is returning after traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photographer: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Russia is taking an “increasingly aggressive posture” in Ukraine and needs to step back, President Barack Obama said Tuesday after meeting with the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“We’ll continue to support Ukraine through the NATO-Ukraine partnership,” Obama told reporters.

Obama and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met in the Oval Office to discuss the impact Russia’s actions in Ukraine are having on European security, as well as the alliance’s progress in training Afghan forces and dealing with extremists in the Middle East and North Africa.

NATO and the U.S. are at a standoff with Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies accuse Vladimir Putin’s government of continuing to encourage separatist elements by providing arms, cash and personnel even after a February cease-fire agreement. Russia denies the allegations and says many of the fighters are “volunteers” on vacation from the military.

Ukraine has been battling pro-Russian separatists in its easternmost regions since Putin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last year. Russia’s moves also have increased concern among Baltic countries. Estonia, where Obama delivered a pointed speech last year about Russian aggression, has urged a bigger presence of NATO troops in the region to counter the threat from Russia.

Stoltenberg called the European military buildup to respond to both Russia and to threats from the Middle East as the biggest “since the end of the Cold War.”

Obama and Stoltenberg met in Washington in preparation for the next NATO summit, which the organization announced last week will be July 8-9, 2016 in Warsaw.

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