There was a very critical article in Tuesday's Financial Timesregarding President Obama's trip to Europe.
Clever enough title- "Right man, Wrong time",but the conclusion was way off base. The author said that the President got nothing but air at the G-20 and like the promise to avoid protectionism at the last meeting drifted away like smoke, so will the weak agreements of this get together.
The NATO summit was also disappointing since only a few thousand troops will be dispatched to Afghanistan. While the Prague speech revived the dream of a nuclear free world, it was delivered against the background of a missile test by North Korea that drew the remarkably strong response from the UN that North Korea has just better cut that stuff out.
On the Turkish leg of the tour, Gideon Rachman (author of the article) said that too much damage had been done during the Bush years, and that only 8% of Turks feel America should lead world affairs. "The new American President faces an economic disaster at home, a stalemated war in Afghanistan, unpredictable adversaries in places such as North Korea, and largely unhelpful allies in Europe."
Well, look under the sheets. The economy has been a disaster, but one that is being addressed and is starting to show signs of life. We will be further along the healing curve, faster than Europe. The war in Afghanistan is more than just the U.S.'s issue. Terror has been exported to Europe as well. And since when is it new news that North Korea is loopy. Our allies are not unhelpful. They have different ideas and nothing came out of the G-20 that was not predicted weeks in advance. Obama's huge personal "victory" shows that the world still wants/needs the U.S. to be the leader and Europe's leaders will be edging toward the reflected glow that he obviously has.
The real substance of the tour came first in the speech in the Czech Republic where the President reaffirmed our commitment to a Ballistic Missile Shield (BMS) in Europe. This would mean a military presence in the virulently anti-Russia Poland and a stronger buffer between Russia and Western Europe. Obama left the door open to NATO membership for the Ukraine and Georgia and put Russia on the defensive at a time when their finances are in shambles with oil off $100 from its high.
The second and perhaps the more crucial politically astute Obama maneuver was in Turkey where Obama confronted the highly emotional Armenian issuewith the support of EU membership for Turkey. Dealing with these issues directly keeps Turkey viable as a pipeline route for energy from Azerbaijan to Europe, and with a stroke stuns Russia and re-vaults the U.S into the leadership role it has always occupied. While Germany didn't go along with additional fiscal stimulus and got the U.S to step up for more IMF aid for Eastern Europe, President Obama jumped the U.S. to the role of protector of oil to Western Europe.
I think that our President has overextended himself as I wrote yesterday. But there is never a "wrong time." There is only the time at hand. I feel we need a laser like focus on domestic issues and Europe needs come second. But I'm not willing to bet against Obama. The political positioning of the Rainbow Tour is impressive.