President Obama will wade into some of the most challenging international debates of his second term when he meets with other world leaders Monday and Tuesday in Northern Ireland at the annual G-8 summit of industrialized nations.
From ramping down a long war in Afghanistan to ramping up military involvement in war-torn Syria; from trying to thwart Iran’s expanding nuclear capabilities to navigating unrest in the Middle East; from defending America’s clandestine electronic data-gathering to advocating for transparent international tax laws, Obama will find himself on and off the hot seat with close friends such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and with prickly peers such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As once-secret National Security Agency counterterrorism programs are hotly debated at home, along with immigration reform legislation in the Senate, Obama will travel to the misty, lake-sculpted resort of Lough Erne, about 90 minutes from Belfast and Dublin. He will meet with Putin Monday evening, when the two leaders are expected to discuss Afghanistan, arms control, and Russia’s continuing support for Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian strongman Obama accused this week of unleashing chemical weapons amid a bloody civil war. Obama wants Putin to break Russia’s ties with Assad, while investing in a future path for Syria that can stabilize the region.
White House National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Friday described Obama’s message to Putin as “an interest-based argument” that advocates for Assad’s ouster but also “preserves some elements of the regime.”
Obama will also meet privately during the two-day summit with British Prime Minister David Cameron, this year’s host for formal discussions, dinners and a working breakfast that each summer occupies the leaders of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Russia.
First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, will travel with the president to Belfast on Monday for a speech he will give to students there, after which Mrs. Obama and the children will keep a separate schedule in Dublin while the president is in Lough Erne, eventually meeting up with him in Berlin. On Wednesday, the president will meet with Merkel there, participate in a press conference, and deliver a speech on the eastern side of the Brandenberg Gate.