Barack Obama.jpg
Photograph: EPA/IAN LANGSDON/POOL MAXPPP OUT

US President Barack Obama is expected to press Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting in Hanover on Sunday for Germany to step up its military presence on NATO's eastern border as part of the alliance's efforts to contain a more aggressive Russia.

The topic is also likely to be stressed by Obama during talks Monday with Merkel as well as the leaders of Britain, Italy and France, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

The US president's two-day stay in Hanover is his fifth visit to Germany and the last leg of a three-nation trip, which forms part of his farewell to world leaders during his final months in office.

Obama and Merkel are to officially open Sunday the annual Hanover Messe, the world's biggest industrial trade fair, where they will try to give fresh momentum to a controversial US-European Union trade deal aimed at creating the world's largest free trade area.

Sunday's talks between Merkel and Obama are also expected to focus on the British referendum on membership of the Europe Union, the terrorist threat and international flashpoints such a Syria and Libya.

Obama's call for Germany to expand its role in Central and Eastern Europe comes in the build up to July's summit of NATO leaders in the Polish capital, Warsaw.

Along with Poland, the Baltic states have been pressing NATO to expand its presence along the alliance's border with Russia amid concerns about signs of Moscow's aggression following its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Germany this year boosted its military forces on NATO's eastern flank along the Russian border, by deploying about 5,500 soldiers as part of military manoeuvres and training programmes in the region.

This represented a rise of about 500 troops compared with 2015. The German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, is to join 21 military manoeuvres this year compared with 16 in 2015.

German eurojet fighters also joined the military surveillance of the three Baltic states – Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia – between the end of August 2015 and the start of January.

Obama arrived in Hanover from London, where he warned British voters against voting to exit the EU at the June 23 referendum, saying that a US trade deal with the EU would have priority over a trade deal with the United Kingdom.

"It could be five years from now, 10 years from now before we're actually able to get something done," Obama told the BBC.

The president is set to attend a special dinner on Sunday attended by business and political leaders, which Merkel is hosting at Hanover's Herrenhausen castle, whose history and vast baroque gardens date back to the 17th century.

Obama was welcomed at the castle with full military honours, with the president and chancellor standing side by side as a military band played the national anthems of their countries.

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