From right to left: Angel Merkel, British Tory leader David

Cameron, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and grabbing

Obama's leg, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

[The Independent, U.K.]



Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

Mr. Obama Has His Reasons for Snubbing Disunited Old Europe


"He would prefer a dinner with his own Michelle, Malia, and Sasha to playing friendship theater with E.U. leaders. ... With his casual willingness to snub Merkel and Sarkozy, he all but calls for the emergence of a Europe united in form and function."


By Thomas Klau*



Translated By Jonathan Lobsien


June 19, 2009


Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

From left to right: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, E.U. President Jose Manuel Barroso and President Obama at the E.U.-U.S. summit in Prague, April 5. Is Obama trying to push European unification?


BBC NEWS VIDEO: President Obama visits Nazi death camp Buchenwald, June 5, 00:04:13RealVideo

There were long faces in Berlin and in Paris after the recent visit by U.S. President Barack Obama: The superstar of the White House granted his most important continental allies less time than Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy would have liked.


In Paris, when it was leaked that Obama would prefer a relaxing visit with his family to a Paris bistro rather than play friendship-theater with the French presidential couple, it caused some irritation in the Elysée [the Presidential palace].


On his second visit to Europe as U.S. President, Obama focused his two stopovers on his tour of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany and the Allies' commemoration of the Normandy landings. The expectations of his German and French hosts for photo-ops and friendly gestures he disappointed coolly.


Obama is a man who plots out and calculates his political moves like a chess player. Combined with the scheduling of his first visit to Europe and his businesslike conduct during his second, one can detect something like a programmatic statement of how this President would like to shape relations with his Allies on the Old Continent. 


On the surface it seems that Europe absolutely counts: Close advisors have rightly point out that on Obama's calendar of trips abroad during the first six months of his term, Europe took first place. It was “only” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was the new administration's first representative to visit Asia and China, followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.


It was the chief who twice traveled to Europe and therefore countered European anxiety that in his conception of the world and strategic understanding, the continent of Europe was of negligible importance.



Therefore, Obama traveled to appointments like his meeting with all E.U. heads of state and government at the end of the G20 and NATO summits in March. And that is why he targeted places and events with a highly symbolic value, such as Buchenwald, Dresden and Normandy. Obama obviously wants no part of bilateral policy and emotional theater with individual E.U. leaders who in the world of the early 21st century find themselves on the road to average middle-class ranking in the global pecking order. Instead, he would prefer a holiday dinner on his own with Michelle, Malia, and Sasha.



Indeed, the American superpower has checked in for its own long descent: it may soon find itself in terms of global politics in the same situation Great Britain was in 100 years ago, as former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd wrote a few days ago in The Guardian.


Obama is unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, who was blind to history. And he also knows how much faster and deeper the descent of the Europeans will be as long as they don't manage to counter the non-European world with a unified message and common representation.


Already in these first months of his tenure, the outlines of Obama's foreign policy informs us of his special mix of courage and caution. Part of it is his willingness, despite a severe economic crisis and ambitious plans for reform in the U.S., to exert heavy pressure on a government like Benjamin Netanyahu's in Israel - even if this provokes hatred and opposition from pro-Israel lobbyist groups in the U.S. that fight every disassociation with Israeli policy as an attack on the integrity of America.


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This includes the willingness to break taboos, as when at Cairo University Obama counted Islam among America's major religions and sprinkled his speech with quotes from the "Holy Quran." It also includes tactical restraint, as with Obama's refusal to clarify his position on the Iranian struggle over the outcome of their presidential election. And it's also in part about things like that somewhat deeper than advised bow before the Saudi King, a key figure in the quest for peace in Palestine.    



Just as with the individual segments of his Middle East policy, out of the contacts that the new U.S. government has engaged in with the German Chancellery, Elysée, Downing Street and the E.U., a coherent pattern is gradually emerging.


Obama, the first U.S. president to carry globalization to the White House with his life story, knows the significance that Europe's past and present hold for America. With his willingness to arrive in March for the E.U.-U.S. summit in Prague, he signaled to Europeans that on principle, he embraces their pursuit of a unified foreign policy.


With his casual willingness to snub Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, he all but calls for the emergence of a Europe united in form and function. Because of the way Germany's chancellor and France's president where treated as a pair before their own people, Obama signaled that by themselves they are no longer important enough to warrant special attention.



Financial Times Deutschland: After Obama's Visit, Germans Sense Waning Influence
Financial Times Deutschland: E.U. and Obama: As Though 'Friendship Were a One-Way Street'
Der Spiegel, Germany: Obama Praises His 'Friend' Chancellor Merkel
Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany: Barack Obama: A True German Through and Through
Nachrichten, Switzerland: Sasha, Malia and the Remarkable Mr. Obama
Le Figaro, France: Ode to the Liberators of France: America's GIs
Le Figaro, France: Obama and Sarkozy: Clashing Views That Need Not Be Fatal
Al Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Obama: A Humble Leader Worthy of His Great Nation


There's little doubt that the center-left politician, former social worker and elite lawyer Obama would like to recruit Europeans as favored partners - but only if they manage to develop a clear and constructive line on the great responsibilities of global policy and jointly assume the risks. That was the message of his first visit. If the Europeans misread the signs of the 21st century, Merkel, Sarkozy, and their successors cannot expect to be doted on by Obama - such was the message of his second visit.


There are other leaders and world figures who mean more to the interests of Washington than unification-weary Europeans competing for attention. It would not be surprising if Chinese President Hu Jintao - the man who codetermines America's eligibility for credit - were to be treated with the utmost courtesy on his first visit to Obama's Washington - something that Merkel and Sarkozy have been denied.


*Thomas Klau is an FTD columnist and heads the Paris Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations.












































[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US June 26, 2:49am]