US President Barack Obama has already taken substantial steps to improve the United States’ relations with its Western partners, seek dialogue with the Muslim world and address hotbeds of tension, Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of European Policy Centre, told EURACTIV in an interview.
European Policy Centre founder Stanley Crossick, who describes himself as a European of British nationality who has been ‘Bruxellois’ for nearly 30 years , now regularly writes on
Like Franklin Roosevelt, US President Barack Obama has had to deal with a major economic crisis during in his first 100 days in office. Do you think Obama’s urge to seek bipartisan approval is allowing him to move fast enough?
Theoretically, this may slow up the passing of legislation. However, implementation is likely to be easier with consensus. Remember that full Democratic support cannot be guaranteed in Congress.
The market reacted well to the G20 summit in London. Many seemed to believe that the world’s leaders, prodded by Obama, could fix the global economy. Do you think he can fix it?
Certainly not alone, as he himself clearly stated. By definition, a global economy cannot be repaired by one country, however big. It needs effective cooperation, at least with the EU and China.
Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons was greeted by some, but criticised by Republicans as naïve, especially after North Korea had fired a ballistic missile. Do you think Russia and the US can converge and influence rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran?
Russia and the US cannot bend North Korea or Iran without China’s support. Obama seeks to reduce existing stocks in all nuclear countries and plans to convene a conference in Washington later this year. But Israel’s cooperation is not assured. For its part, Russia may demand a reduction in non-nuclear forces at the same time, which will not make things easier.
Some found the results of the NATO summit in Strasbourg disappointing. EU member states cobbled together about 5,000 more troops for the Afghan war. But 3,000 of these will only be sent temporarily, to provide security during the Afghan elections in August. The US, by contrast, is sending 21,000 more troops. The result is that the war in Afghanistan will increasingly be led and fought by Americans.
Was the summit successful or not?
The NATO summit was a success because agreement was reached. The meeting ending in disarray would have been a disastrous blow to the organisation. However, agreement was only reached because Obama had lowered his demands. The Europeans must decide whether or not they really support the new US policy. If they do, then they must make a greater commitment.
Do you think the Western alliance is in better shape after the NATO summit?
It’s certainly not in worse shape, but we have to wait and see the implementation of what was agreed before this question can be answered.
Obama wants an integrated solution to peace in the Middle East. But during his first 100 days, he did not give too much attention to this. Why is this, and what would be the serious steps the new American president should take to break the deadlock?
There is nothing more he could have done. Secretary Clinton and George Mitchell are focusing on the problem. Only if Obama threatens to reduce support for Israel can there possibly be any progress under its new government. And this would be a serious electoral risk in the 2010 mid-term elections.
On his inauguration day, Obama promised the Muslim world a “new way forward based on mutual respect and mutual interest”. Do you see signs of this in the first three months of his presidency?
Yes, in his manner. His sending a Persian New Year message to Tehran was a very welcome initiative, although it was marred by the insensitive and unnecessary reference to terror. However, the Muslim world will only really be convinced if Washington adopts a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Do you think a new era is starting in transatlantic relations? Or do you think, like many, that the last summit in Prague showed the shortcomings of a European Union that still cannot speak with one voice?
I am not convinced that we are seeing a new era in substance, although the personal relationships are very much better. A new era is only possible when Europe speaks with one voice and also pays its way in the defence and security field.
Obama came to office promising swift and comprehensive action to combat climate change. Yet his administration has taken a cautious approach so far. What can be expected?
Compared with the previous régime, Obama has taken a major step forward by ending eight years of ‘climate denial’ and committing the US to limiting the gases that cause global warming. He has also invited 16 major economies and the UN Secretary General to a meeting of the ‘Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate’ in Washington on 27-28 April.
Do you think developed countries will get their act together to deliver their commitments and come up with an ambitious post-Kyoto deal in Copenhagen?
No, I don’t think that the developed countries will get their act together, because they need to agree that China, India and other developing countries must receive the technology and finance to play the part the West wants them to play.