Speaking to reporters at the White House just days before he is due to fly to Tallinn September 3 for a meeting with the presidents of all three Baltic states, Obama said the US had an "unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies."
"Part of the reason I’ll be going to Estonia is to let the Estonians know that we mean what we say with respect to our treaty obligations. We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine. We do, however, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and we’re doing not just a lot of work diplomatically but also financially in order to make sure that they have the best chance at dealing with what is admittedly a very difficult situation," Obama said.
On the NATO summit due to take place in the UK immediately after his Estonian trip, Obama said: "We take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously, and that includes the smallest NATO member, as well as the largest NATO member. And so part of the reason I think this NATO meeting is going to be so important is to refocus attention on the critical function that NATO plays to make sure that every country is contributing in order to deliver on the promise of our Article 5 assurances."
Obama's words will be welcome in the Baltic states, where fears are widespread that Russia could seek to stir up trouble in much the same way it has in eastern Ukraine, using the Baltic's substantial minority Russian populations as a pretext for intervention.
However, Obama said Russia's actions in Ukraine were only harming itself: "The fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainians has resulted, I believe, in a weakening of Russia, not a strengthening of Russia. That may not be apparent immediately, but I think it will become increasingly apparent."