Obama to meet with Merkel at WH with Ukraine on agenda

President Obama hosts German chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House on Friday with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine -- and its failure to live up to a peace agreement -- a top subject of their conversation.

The visit comes days after the U.S. and European Union stepped up sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia for failing to live up to an agreement to ease tensions in Ukraine. The sanctions, however, topped short of imposing broad sanctions on Russian sales of oil and natural gas, reflecting concerns that such a step would cripple Europe’s economic recovery, with the EU deeply dependent on Russian energy.

Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn’t say if Obama will encourage Merkel to embrace deeper sanctions against Russia, but said “the continued failure by Russia to abide by its commitments in the Geneva agreement will be a focus of the conversation.”

“The alliance between the U.S. and Germany is indispensable to meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century,” Carney said. “One of those challenges now, when it comes to Europe, is the assault on the sovereignty and territorial integrity that Russia has been waging against Ukraine.”

The administration has pledged such sweeping sanctions should Russian troops cross the Ukraine border and administration officials said earlier in the week there have been discussions about accommodations for countries who would be hit hardest by sectoral sanctions.

Carney noted that sanctions could effect some countries harder, “and that's something that I think we all take into account as we move forward with sanctions.”

The U.S. is also urging business leaders not to attend an economic forum later this month in Russia. Carney said the conversations are aimed at providing information about how the sanctions will be enforced -- as well as conveying a message that companies should consider skipping the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Administration officials are “making clear that we don't think it's appropriate, given the flagrant violations of a sovereign nation's territorial integrity and its consistent efforts to further destabilize Ukraine,” he said.