View Full Version : Obama Loosing Europe? Who to blame???

06-08-2010, 06:23 PM
Cant blame Bush for this.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424...HTTopCarousel_1 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703302604575294853531983496.html?m od=WSJ_World_RIGHTTopCarousel_1)


It is Henry Kissinger who is credited with asking: "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?" What the king of realpolitik meant more than 30 years ago was that Washington had no single point of contact on the Continent, no leader or diplomat who could speak authoritatively on behalf of Europe. It was a good question when he posed it, and it still is when one considers that the answer today is supposed to be Baroness Ashton. Despite lacking any experience she was chosen late last year as the European Union's high representative on foreign affairs. It is unlikely that she is quite what Mr. Kissinger had in mind.

But while the "who do I call?" question is so often asked one way, it is rarely if ever reversed. If Europe wants a sensible conversation with America right now, who should it call? It is not an inquiry that is as glib as it perhaps sounds. President Barack Obama has been known to speak on the phone to European leaders. But it could not be claimed with any credibility that relations are good.

Sure, voters in Europe are still enthusiastic about him. However, almost 18 months into his presidency any early excitement among his fellow leaders here has long since faded. What is left is a sense that the president cares little for Europe, has no more than a passing interest in its leaders and, to the limited extent that he is interested in foreign affairs, he is focused on wooing emerging powers such as India.

Mr. Obama only very briefly became concerned about matters European when it seemed that the euro-zone bailout package might be in difficulty last month. If the deal had collapsed there would have been consequences for American banks and the world economy. But other than that intervention, seen as heavy-handed in some quarters, he has taken an overwhelmingly inward-looking approach.

Of course, he has an excuse: he has a joblessness recovery on his hands and political problems multiplying. But previous presidents have managed to deal with similar difficulties and still manage better relations with old allies. Not this time.

The tension with Angela Merkel has deep roots. Der Spiegel says the German chancellor, avowedly pro-American, is vexed at the apparent fluctuation by Mr. Obama between "disregard" for Germany and a desire to "dominate." The pair have never found a way of working comfortably together.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France had some success in calling on Mr. Obama to lobby Germany and others for the completion of the bailout deal. But that was a rare moment of cooperation. Beyond that, he considers Mr. Obama weak in his attitude to Iran.

The Spanish didn't take kindly to Prime Minister Josť Luis Rodriguez Zapatero being phoned during the bailout crisis to be told that Spain should curb its spending. Considering what is likely to happen to the U.S. deficit on the back of runaway spending there was a degree of cheek in Mr. Obama's intervention. The White House's decision to snub the summit planned for last month between the U.S. and the EU hasn't helped either.

The new government in Britain has had an early taste of disappointment, too. On the surface, the choreography of announcements and platitudinous statements has been handled smoothly. Mr. Obama was on the line almost as soon as David Cameron crossed the threshold of Number 10. Mr. Cameron's spin doctors were touchingly rather excited about the resulting invite to cross the Atlantic. "Barack and Michelle" want to see "David and Samantha" in Washington at the earliest available opportunity.

William Hague, the U.K. foreign secretary, was also quick to visit U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. For lunch, warm words were on the menu.

But this is standard Anglo-American fare. When a new leader in either the U.K. or the U.S. takes over, the president or secretary of state is primed by officials to use the term "special relationship" with portentous emphasis. Failure to do so, Washington believes, will result in a British national breakdown and full-blown existential crisis rooted in post imperial angst. The truth about this now traditional little diplomatic dance is that the Brits know they are being spun but officials are much too polite to tell the Americans that it's no longer strictly necessary.

Beneath the surface all is not well. The incoming Tory team had expected to be able to forge strong relations but beyond the public statements it is hitting a wall of indifference.

The crisis involving BP isn't helping. For officials in London Mr. Obama's strong attacks on BP and extraordinary demand that it reduce its dividend as some kind of punishment for its oil spill are a particular headache. Soon, Mr. Cameron is likely to be asked in a press conference or interview what he thinks of the White House campaign against BP. He will have to choose his words very carefully to avoid offending both parties. There will be others who argue that he should be bolder in defending a U.K.-based company and British pride.

Perhaps the reality is that Mr. Obama and Europe are simplydestined not to get along. He may realize in a future crisis the advantages of being nice to old friends. Equally, he may not. There is very little that that European leaders can do about it until there is a president who thinks differently.

In the interim they may take a leaf out of Mr. Obama's book by caring about it a little less. China, India and other rising stars of the world economy are there to be cultivated far more intensely than the Europeans are currently doing. We are moving from a multilateral world, dominated by a single super power and fixed blocs, into an increasingly unilateral age in which all manner of new relationships will have to be managed. There are, thinking of Kissinger again, all sorts of other people now worth calling.