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.
- Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama
- Part 2: 'We Need the US as a Strong Partner'
- Part 3: 'On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost'
- Part 4: 'We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China'
- Part 5: 'The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran'
- Part 6: 'Some Disappointment Is Inevitable'
- Part 7: 'By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country'
- Part 8: 'Please Don't Bomb Iran'
- Part 9: 'A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC'
- Part 10: 'Obama -- Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries'