THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — President Barack Obama gathered with world leaders in a day of delicate diplomacy, as he sought to rally the international community Monday around efforts to isolate Russia following its incursion into Ukraine.
Nuclear terrorism was the official topic as Obama and other world leaders streamed in to a convention center in The Hague for a two-day nuclear summit. But the real focus was on a hurriedly scheduled meeting of the Group of Seven industrialized economies to address the crisis in Ukraine on the sidelines of the nuclear summit.
The U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan were to participate — but not Russia. Discussion among Obama and his G-7 counterparts will center on economic aid to Ukraine, while at the same time seeking to segregate Putin from the exclusive group, which Russia usually joins in Group of Eight meetings.
In a show of western solidarity, Obama declared shortly after arriving in the Netherlands on Monday morning that the U.S. and Europe stand together behind Ukraine.
"We're united in imposing a cost on Russia for its actions so far," Obama said after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters the G-7 meeting was aimed at foreshadowing "what economic sanctions Russia will be faced with if it continues down this course." He said the countries also would discuss international efforts to assist the fledgling Ukrainian government, as well as what the G-7's relationship with Russia will be if the current standoff continues.
However, Rhodes indicated that the U.S. and other nations were not prepared to formally kick Russia out of the Group of Eight. "The door is open to Russia to deescalate the situation," he said.
Rhodes said that while the G-7 would not levy joint sanctions on behalf of the alliance, the goal was to have individual members coordinate their approach as they levy future penalties. "We would like to see a steady ratcheting up of that pressure," he said.
Obama also sought to coax support one of Moscow's closest allies as he met one-on-one talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. China has often sided with Russia in disputes with the West, but U.S. officials have been appealing to Beijing's well-known opposition to outside interference in another nation's domestic affairs.
Obama treaded carefully in statements with Xi before their meeting, saying only that they planned to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
"I believe ultimately, that by working together, China and the United States can help strengthen international law and respect for the sovereignty of nations and establish the kind of rules internationally that allow all peoples to thrive," Obama said in a subtle appeal for Chinese support.