By Lori Hinnant and Raf Casert
WASHINGTON: The White House said Wednesday night that President Barack Obama will meet with top lawmakers today about the situation in Ukraine.
Obama plans to host House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Oval Office.
The White House said Obama will also update the leaders on his trip last week to Europe. Much of that four-country trip was dominated by efforts to coordinate the West’s response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Congress has sent Obama a bill providing $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and punishing Russia for its bold annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Some in Congress are pushing Obama to take further steps, including increasing natural gas exports to Europe.
The United States on Wednesday called on Europe to wean itself from a dangerous dependency on Russian gas, saying it was time to stand together and bring an end to the Kremlin’s use of energy supplies as political leverage.
Left unsaid was the European Union’s reluctance to follow the United States headlong into shale gas extraction, which has transformed the global energy scene and turned the United States from importer into a nascent exporter. Or its refusal to fully re-embrace nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Europe’s reliance on Russia for a third of its energy needs has left the Kremlin in a position of power, emboldening it as it swept in to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine last month, with little more than diplomatic protest and a few sanctions in return.
“It really boils down to this: No nation should use energy to stymie a people’s aspirations,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. “It should not be used as a weapon. It’s in the interest of all of us to be able to have adequate energy supplies critical to our economies, critical to our security, critical to the prosperity of our people.”