Susan Rice: White House reassessing U.S.- Russia relations

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on State of the Union

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Asked whether the United States is reassessing its relationship with Russia given the crisis in Ukraine, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice offered a direct answer.

“Yes,” Rice flatly told reporters Friday during a briefing for President Obama’s trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia next week.

“It is causing the countries and people of Europe and the international community and, of course, the United States to reassess,” she added.

The invasion and annexation of Crimea by Moscow have forced the White House to make major adjustments to next week’s itinerary for Obama, adding a key meeting with leaders from G-7 nations, a gathering where administration officials said further “isolation” of Russia will be on the agenda.

A bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi has also been scheduled. Both Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have appealed to China, seeking support for their competing positions over Ukraine’s fate.

Ukraine will also be a major theme of the President’s signature speech of the coming week. The address, set for Wednesday in Belgium, will focus on European security, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Friday.

“Obviously, the situation in Ukraine will factor heavily into his presentation. It only reinforces the need for the United States to remain committed to a strong transatlantic alliance, to the security of Europe, the integration of Europe, and to the values that the United States and Europe stand for,” Rhodes said.

Previously scheduled meetings with NATO’s Secretary General and the European Union have only taken on greater importance, administration officials said.

“These will be important discussions on NATO’s collective defense,” Rhodes said.

Asked whether the President will deliver a direct message to Russia’s leadership during his overseas trip, Rice insisted Obama has been doing just that all along.

With U.S. officials keeping a close eye on the thousands of Russian troops gathering on Ukraine’s borders over the past week, the unfolding crisis in Eastern Europe has the potential to further disrupt what’s already going to be a busy seven-day agenda for Obama, who is also scheduled to meet with Pope Francis and Saudi King Abdullah.

White House officials announced Obama will hold a trilateral meeting with South Korea’s president and Japan’s prime minister during his first stop in the Netherlands.

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