Different Obama goes to different Europe


MOSCOW. (Andrei Fedyashin, RIA Novosti political commentator) - On the evening of March 31, 2009 (April 1 in Moscow), U.S. President Barack Obama will be off on his first European trip, packed with summits between April 1 and 7. And each of these summits he will have to walk across a mine area only slightly covered by diplomatic protocol.

The G-20 summit on April 2 in London is obviously unlikely to produce the results the world expects. It will fail to produce the required solutions and another one will have to be held later.

The NATO Summit in Strasbourg/Kehl (April 3 and 4, 2009) could have been a welcome change after London, had it not been for the allies. They are reluctant to provide the United States with what it needs - additional forces in Afghanistan, the main reason Obama goes to Strasbourg and Kehl.

The EU-US summit on April 5 in Prague might also be a disappointment and very similar to the London event. Moreover, the Czech prime minister who holds the rotating EU presidency said two days before Obama's arrival that the U.S. administration's economic stimulus package was a "road to hell." That was unheard-of. America could have taken it from a German or a Frenchman, but the Czech was immediately lectured by the State Department on benefits of minding the country's own internal problems, especially after his own parliament passed a no confidence vote in his own government a week before the London summit.

Finally, if even G-8 summits have failed to solve the acute problems, how can they be solved at events with 20 or more participating countries, especially without any binding decisions?

Obama's visit to Turkey, the U.S.' and NATO'S most faithful Asian ally, on April 6-7 could have remedied the situation, had it not been for the fact that a new NATO secretary general had to be elected. The current NATO head is stepping down this summer.

Turkey, whose all-out support is crucial for the U.S.' plans in Afghanistan, is outraged by the nominated candidate, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Having him top the alliance is seen in Ankara as an affront to the whole Islamic world, after the 2005 scandal over the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in Danish media, as Rasmussen then refused to apologize for the blasphemy or condemn the media outlets in question.

However, the front-runner for the top NATO post is supported by Britain, Germany and France. Obama will probably try to talk Ankara into accepting Rasmussen, in exchange for not having to send more troops to Afghanistan.

In Istanbul, Obama may even make some sort of statement to the Islamic world to amend for [George W.] Bush's actions which strongly antagonized the Muslims.

In short, Obama's trip to Europe will be an ordeal he would have been happy to avoid.

One has to admit that Obama has not made any serious blunders to be slammed for. But this is not a good reason to hail him like Europe did when he was a presidential candidate.

Europe now knows better than to expect much from the new U.S. president. The White House is not giving much these days. It is now a different Obama, traveling to a different Europe.

"Give Obama more time. Then give him hell. The president has had only two months - harsh judgments are premature," a British newspaper wrote a few day's before his trip to Europe.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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