Obama Urges Europe to Work with US on Security
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama urged Europe on Thursday to stand by the United States in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting other threats from climate change to nuclear proliferation.
Speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin's Tiergarten park to an audience police estimated at over 200,000, the Democratic senator said America had no better partner than Europe but cautioned the allies against turning inward.
"No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan," Obama said in the only formal public speech he will give on a week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East meant to burnish his foreign policy credentials.
"But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone."
Broad in scope, the speech was aimed not only at European audiences but also U.S. voters who face a choice in the Nov. 4 election between the Democrat Obama and Republican John McCain.
McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, is an Arizona senator who has long been an influential voice on foreign policy and military matters.
He is making national security a central focus of his campaign and contends that Obama, a 46-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, lacks the foreign affairs seasoning to serve as commander-in-chief.
Obama has aimed to dispel that notion with a seven-nation tour this week that has taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.
He is highly popular in Germany and his appearance has been likened to the 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy, whose "Ich bin ein Berliner" address shortly after the building of the Berlin Wall became an iconic moment of the Cold War.
Obama did not break into German like Kennedy, but spoke at length of the historic ties between the United States and Germany, touching on the Berlin airlift 60 years ago and the fall of the Wall in 1989.
"The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers," he said in the 28-minute speech. "No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone." (See the accompanying CNBC video for more.)
Obama has urged a shift in focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, where stability is threatened by a fierce Taliban insurgency.
Germany has roughly 3,500 troops in Afghanistan and is expected to raise that by 1,000 later this year.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted pressure from the United States to send German soldiers to the more dangerous south of the country and said on the eve of Obama's visit that Germany had "limits" in what it could do.
Obama urged Europe and the United States needed to stand together to send Iran a message that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions and urged both sides to move beyond their differences over the Iraq war to help suffering Iraqis rebuild their lives.
"Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future," he said. "The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another."
His comments were cheered by a huge crowd, some wearing Obama badges, "Yes We Can" t-shirts echoing a slogan of his and carrying American flags.
A reggae band played in the background and people sipped beer under sunny skies in a summertime party atmosphere.
There was loud applause when Obama talked about the environment, multilateralism and human rights, but none when he raised Afghanistan.
"Relations between Germany and the United States will improve under Obama," said Dennis Buchner, 31. "But he also has high expectations on the Germans increasing their military engagement in Afghanistan. That will certainly spark debate in Germany."