The change in tone was on display here on Friday when Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner made an unusual appearance at a meeting of euro zone finance ministries. Mr. Geithner had been invited to offer some advice on fixing Europe’s sovereign debt and banking problems.
European leaders, who have been slow to react to the root causes of the problem, emerged from the meeting dismissive of Mr. Geithner’s ideas and, in some cases, even of the idea that the United States was in a position to give out such pointers.
“I found it peculiar that, even though the Americans have significantly worse fundamental data than the euro zone, that they tell us what we should do,” Maria Fekter, the finance minister of Austria, said after the meeting Friday morning. “I had expected that, when he tells us how he sees the world, that he would listen to what we have to say.”
Such criticism was echoed by other attendees of the meeting, including the finance minister of Belgium, Didier Reynders, who said Mr. Geithner should listen rather than talk. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the finance minister group, said European officials did not care to have detailed discussions about expanding their bailout fund “with a nonmember of the euro area.”
American officials are aware that they need to tread carefully when advising others, especially now, and they have avoided offering specific plans or proposals.
Instead, they point to recent programs in the United States simply as case studies. On Friday, Mr. Geithner, among other recommendations, encouraged the European leaders to add more firepower to their bailout funds, and described how the United States used leverage in 2008 to help bolster the markets.
The Treasury department said in a statement Friday that “Secretary Geithner encouraged his European counterparts to act decisively and to speak with one voice.” And a Treasury official said the department did not feel Mr. Geithner was rebuffed, because he did not have a specific agenda.
In the past, countries with financial problems have not always received the United States’ advice with open arms, at least until they needed financial support. Europe, analysts say, may never need outside support if its political leaders can find a way to use the wealth of nations like Germany to shore up more debt-troubled countries like Italy.
Still, it is hard to argue that the United States is not in a far weaker place to be doling out advice than it was in past crises, especially after the gridlock in August over raising the debt limit.
“We’re in a very different world environment right now,” said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political consulting firm. “The United States has diminished credibility — it can’t simply tell Europe what to do. And it lacks the political will or means to throw a lot of cash at European troubles, even though they could become American problems very quickly.”