12/07/2011 09:28 EST | Updated 02/06/2012 05:12 EST

Publicly and privately, US is pressing Europe to act decisively to resolve debt crisis

FRANKFURT - U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is darting across Europe with a stark message: The continent's leaders must act quickly and convincingly to defuse a debt crisis that is threatening the global economy.

His visit this week comes on the eve of a summit of European leaders Friday that could yield a plan for resolving the crisis. Optimists hope a deal would persuade investors to lend to countries, like Italy and Spain, that are straining under crushing debt burdens.

Geithner's trip to five European cities is the most visible part of a broader drive the United States has been making, publicly and privately, to nudge Europe to resolve its crisis.

The United States has plenty at stake.

A still-fragile U.S. economy remains vulnerable to any financial contagion that might erupt in Europe. If banks that are sitting on piles of European government debt cut off lending, the global economy would suffer. The flow of U.S. exports would slow. A panic could send stocks tumbling worldwide.

And with Obama facing re-election in less than a year, the outcome of Europe's crisis carries risks for the president personally.

Besides Geithner's trip to press European officials, the U.S. government is acting in other ways: