Good Morning, Mr. President What Europe Wants from Obama

Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'


Thierry de Montbrial is director of the French Institute of International Relations and the author of "Twenty Years that Turned the World Upside Down -- From Berlin to Beijing."

First, I would like to see a more congenial president, one who takes a friendlier approach to the rest of the world. Of course, we need a leader who, in light of the financial crisis, proves to be effective on economic issues and does not fall prey to the temptation of protectionism. Politically speaking, he must be a man who thinks beyond narrow American interests. More concretely: damage control must continue in Iraq, and there must be a coordinated approach with Pakistan and dialogue with Iran -- without it, there can be no solution in the Middle East or in Afghanistan. Finally, the new man in Washington must show himself to be less ideological when dealing with Russia and China, particularly regarding issues such as the expansion of NATO and the missile shield. Planetary problems cannot be resolved through confrontation.

Jan Techau is the head of the Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Studies at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

The first issue to be tackled by the next president is hardly ever found on any of the laundry lists which are currently being compiled for the next trans-Atlantic agenda: style. The manner in which the future American administration will treat its European counterparts will be all-important for constructive relations during the next four years. Europeans do not expect to find agreement on all policy issues with the US. Far from it -- Europe itself finds it soberingly difficult to generate much-needed pan-EU unity, even on urgent policy issues. But Europeans expect to be treated without condescension and as nominally equal counterparts, even if it is true that the power imbalance between themselves and the US is sometimes strikingly evident. In other words: a return to normal and established ways of diplomacy is much anticipated -- and much needed. The new president could score easy points and make a huge difference by exercising old-fashioned, respectful leadership.

Still, when looking at the issues, contrary to what the current election hype makes us believe, the quality of future trans-Atlantic relations actually depends much more on the Europeans than on who will be the next US president. Because regardless of the outcome of the elections, daunting tasks need to be tackled by the partners, and it is the Europeans who have so far not lived up to their capacities. Both Afghanistan, and, even more importantly, Iran, fall into this category. Hopefully, the Europeans will have good answers and some new substance to offer when the new president asks difficult questions.

Even before the financial crisis, the trans-Atlantic partners were forced to think hard about how to manage their relatively weaker position in world affairs. With a global financial crisis probably leading to global recession, this is more urgent than ever. The institutions once created by a dominant West to safeguard global stability and development -- i.e. the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, NATO (and to a lesser extent the EU) -- are in need of major overhauls. Their new shapes will mirror a changed world, with emerging economies and many developing nations claiming a bigger share of the pie. Europe and America must propose creative and workable alternatives to save these institutions and to retain its influence.

Soli Özel is a professor of political science and international relations at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

I rejoice at Obama's election, but we must be careful not to over-invest in him. Expectations for Obama are already too high. No one can meet them. As far as international relations are concerned, anything that is non-Bush will obviously be welcomed by the rest of the world. But the United States is still the United States, and one man can't change the whole machinery of US government.

One of the things Obama will have to contend with is the fixation Americans have with the idea of American exceptionalism. This philosophy -- that everyone is the world must toe the American line -- was extreme under Bush. Some humility and capacity for dialogue would be good. I think Obama has the personal character to pursue policy in this way, but it remains to be seen whether he will manage to bring along with him the entire machinery of American foreign policy.

Will the United States under Obama accept a reshuffling of the power distribution that structures the UN Security Council, the World Bank and the IMF? Will the US accept that while they might be primus inter pares, they are no longer a world hegemon? Here I think we might be disappointed.

Turkey will be important for the United States no matter who comes to power, and Turkish-US relations will need to be well managed. I think Obama will be better for the world, and also better for Turkey. Some in Turkey have pointed to Obama's support for the US Congress's Armenian Genocide Resolution and have suggested that McCain, who opposes the resolution, would actually be a better friend to Turkey. I disagree. Obama has people around him who know Turkey very well, and I believe he'll prove to be a good partner for Turkey.

I wonder if he is going to be able to seriously tackle the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He won't necessarily have a stronger hand there than previous administrations, but it does seem to me there is increasing realization in Israel that time is running out. On the other hand, the Israeli right-wing is more entrenched than ever. We'll see.

Achim Berg is CEO of Microsoft Germany.

No matter who the next American president is, I would like to see, most of all, the new US government hit the ground running! The world's strongest economic power needs a rapid transition and must approach the challenges of the financial crisis in a determined way. At a time when new decisions will have to be made on a daily basis, a president will not have the luxury of 100 days to become acclimated to the job. In addition, I hope that the already positive trans-Atlantic relations are strengthened. This relates not only to economic issues, but also to questions of security policy and the environment, which can only be overcome with concerted action. And then there is something else: As a German employee of an American company that has been established in Germany for 25 years, I believe that the US government can learn a thing or do from Germany and Europe. The area of data protection would be an exciting topic in this regard.

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Macadore 11/05/2008
1.
Zitat von sysopIn conversations and e-mail exchanges with SPIEGEL ONLINE, European leaders and thinkers express their wishes for the next American president. Yes, they want the US to join the Kyoto successor. And, yes, they want to see Guantanamo close. But many also know that theirs is a view from Mars. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,588190,00.html
What hubris. To quote John Kennedy out of context, “Ask not what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America”. The author was partially right. You’re not from Mars. You’re from Venus. You want America to make you happy. If it doesn’t then it has failed you. I repeat, what childish hubris. When do the Europeans do their part? I hope Obama brings the troops home from everywhere. Let the Europeans deal with the Russias and Muslims. Let the Europeans protect their oil supplies in the Middle East. Let the South Koreans deal with North Koreans. I am tired of protecting and supporting an ungrateful world.
mrwarmth 11/05/2008
2. Ein Titel
I think Europe just got its first wish...
plotinus 11/05/2008
3. What have you done for US lately?
Zitat von MacadoreWhat hubris. To quote John Kennedy out of context, “Ask not what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America”. The author was partially right. You’re not from Mars. You’re from Venus. You want America to make you happy. If it doesn’t then it has failed you. I repeat, what childish hubris. When do the Europeans do their part? I hope Obama brings the troops home from everywhere. Let the Europeans deal with the Russias and Muslims. Let the Europeans protect their oil supplies in the Middle East. Let the South Koreans deal with North Koreans. I am tired of protecting and supporting an ungrateful world.
To quote John Kennedy *_in_ context: "Ask not what I can do for you ---- ask rather what you can do for me."* Aw, has the rest of the world been mean to you? Well, you can always leave and take your ball and your toys back home with you. The rest of the world will manage ---- somehow. -
tomfarr 11/06/2008
4. Europe's Wish List for Obama
As one who has roots in Europe, and has studied its culture, history, and some of its languages, I have no wish to be abrasive; but in a spirit of honest inquiry, I would like to know why Obama, or any Amerian president, should pay much attention to the wishes of Germany, to pick one major nation. It does not seem to me that Germany is in any meaningful way an ally, and perhaps not even a friend. No longer feeling a need for protection after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact, Germans have become increasing critical of the US, while kowtowing to the thuggish Russians and totalitarian Chinese. It does not seem too much of an exaggeration to say that Germany seems to be slowly taking on the status of a vassal state in a resurgent Russian Empire. The notorious Schroder, now happily working for the Russians, engaged in loud, raucous, and hostile attacks on the US in 2003; one wonders what quiet and friendly diplomacy on his part might have accomplished with Bush. I am really trying to discern in what way Germany is an ally of the US, whose counsel should be sought. It is not at all apparent to this American.
plotinus 11/06/2008
5. Americans should learn more, and complain less
Zitat von tomfarrAs one who has roots in Europe, and has studied its culture, history, and some of its languages, I have no wish to be abrasive; but in a spirit of honest inquiry, I would like to know why Obama, or any Amerian president, should pay much attention to the wishes of Germany, to pick one major nation. It does not seem to me that Germany is in any meaningful way an ally, and perhaps not even a friend. No longer feeling a need for protection after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact, Germans have become increasing critical of the US, while kowtowing to the thuggish Russians and totalitarian Chinese. It does not seem too much of an exaggeration to say that Germany seems to be slowly taking on the status of a vassal state in a resurgent Russian Empire. The notorious Schroder, now happily working for the Russians, engaged in loud, raucous, and hostile attacks on the US in 2003; one wonders what quiet and friendly diplomacy on his part might have accomplished with Bush. I am really trying to discern in what way Germany is an ally of the US, whose counsel should be sought. It is not at all apparent to this American.
Many things are not apparent to many Americans, though these things are very simple and clear. Americans love to toss around the words "co-operation" and "community." Perhaps they should spend a little time finding out what these words really mean. -
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