Lonely at the top: President Obama fails to enlist Swedish Prime Minister

Fredrik Reinfeldt in his version of a coalition of the willing on Syria.



As Friendly as U.S. and Sweden May Be, We Differ on Syria (Sydsvenskan, Sweden)


"Obama probably came to Stockholm with the hope of getting at least a few Nordic countries on the bandwagon. However, on behalf of the Swedish government, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt politely but firmly said 'no thank you.' ... 'I understand, especially the U.S. President needs to react. ... But this small country will always say let's put our hope into the United Nations,' Reinfeldt said."




Translated By Peter Silverwood


September 11, 2013


Sweden - Sydsvenskan - Original Article (Swedish)

President Obama makes his case on Syria: His congenial hosts in Stockholm offered their sympathy for America's position, but remained unwilling to agree to the use of force without U.N. approval.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, explains how disarming Syria might work, Sept. 11, 00:05:16RealVideo

Barack Obama’s historic visit to Sweden demonstrated the convergence between Sweden and the United States, but also some of the differences, such as on Syria.


The agenda included relations between Sweden and the United States, and topics like free trade, energy, and the environment, areas that for the most part, Swedish and American interests are aligned. And when President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt met in Stockholm yesterday for the historic first bilateral visit of a sitting American president to Sweden, these were the topics that discussions focused on.


However, talks also touched on what is now on top of Obama's agenda: the war in Syria and thequestion of whether the United States should intervene.


Their afternoon's press conference [below] began with mutual assurances from Reinfeldt and President Obama about common interests and their consensus on free trade, energy and climate issues. But Syria soon intruded.


Since the sarin gas attack outside Damascus that killed over 1,400 innocent civilians a few weeks ago, both Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, have asserted that the Syrian regime has gone too far, and have more or less promised military retaliation.


The much-discussed "red line" has been crossed. But the U.N. Security Council is paralyzed, blocked by Russia and China, who have the back of the dictator in Damascus. The U.S. president hoped instead to build a coalition of the willing. This has proven more difficult than expected, particularly after the British Parliament said no.


Obama probably came to Stockholm with the hope of getting at least a few Nordic countries on the bandwagon. However, on behalf of the Swedish government, Fredrik Reinfeldt politely but firmly said "no thank you."


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Maybe - and this is a big maybe - Obama had better success at the dinner Reinfeldt hosted that evening, after this article was written [Sept. 5]. There, Obama had the company of the Finnish president, and the prime ministers of Denmark, Iceland and Norway.


When on Saturday, Obama surprisingly decided to allow Congress to vote on military action against Syria, it was tempting to interpret it as an attempt on the part of the president to avoid taking responsibility for a controversial decision. Controversial abroad, but also in the U.S., the public of the war-weary nation does not want to see new military ventures in the Middle East.

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Yesterday in Stockholm, there was no hesitation from Obama. The president spoke with conviction about his cause. Obama was very clear that Bashar-al-Assad's regime was behind the gas attack, and clear that the regime must be held accountable.


"My credibility's not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line, and America and Congress' credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important."


If hundreds of children are killed in an attack with chemical weapons, weapons prohibited under international law, then the world must react, and "not look for reasons not to act," he concluded.


And by "the world," Obama said, most people mean the United States.


True. Such are the expectations, and for the most part, it is a quite a thankless task. The U.S. is both expected to act as world policeman, and hated for it when it does.


So determined was Obama in his opinion about why it is necessary to intervene in Syria, that Reinfeldt was obliged to explain and defend his position.


"I understand, especially the U.S. President needs to react. ... But this small country will always say let's put our hope into the United Nations," Reinfeldt said.


Reinfeldt maintained his U.N. line, at least for now. That is good.


Even the Swedish-American consensus has its limits.


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Sept. 11, 2013, 11:49am