During his eight day trip to Europe, President Obama took part in three international summits and held fourteen bilateral meetings, as well as squeezing in a flying visit to Iraq. The trip has been perceived to be a success, and a wide range of significant global issues have been discussed.It could be argued that Obama has achieved success in six distinct areas.
1. Securing the financial stimulus plan.
Success at the G20 was by no means assured with the French and German delegations insisting upon tougher international financial regulations and the US and UK advocating further public spending to stimulate economic growth. A shift in the US position on international regulation allowed the Financial Stability Board to be set up, seemingly indicating that Obama understands that global economic cooperation is essential for global economic growth.
2. Improving relations with the Muslim world.
Obama has committed to a "new chapter in American engagement" to rebuild relations between the US and the Muslim world. The trip to Turkey was a significant one, and had been preceded with the delivery of a video message to the Iranian public, seen as a precursor to opening more formal channels of communication with Tehran. Obama is sowing the seeds of friendship in the Muslim world and he will be hoping that the soil will become more fertile for further negotiations and collaboration on issues such as Iran, Syria and the Greater Middle East.
3. Cementing his position on the international stage.
The manner in which President Obama conducted himself on the international stage was very impressive, with the public and world leaders warming to his persona, if not all his policies. Although undoubtedly the star attraction, an emphasis was placed on humility and he played a significant part in achieving a successful resolution to the discussions at the G20. More specifically, Obama acted as a go between for the French and the Chinese in order to resolve their differences on tax havens which threatened to derail the financial plan.
4. Establishing further dialogue with Russia.
The reset button appears to have been well and truly pressed, and relations started afresh between Presidents Obama and Medvedev. Talks took place ahead of the G20 on the framework of the US - Russia relationship; negotiations have begun on bilateral strategic arms control and progress on this will serve as an indicator to the state of the relationship between the two countries.
5. Increasing NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan.
NATO sending an additional 5,000 personnel in the form of troops and trainers to Afghanistan was welcomed by President Obama, although he did add that he saw this as a "strong down payment" and that he still sought further pledges of long-term deployments to Afghanistan. This deployment is an indication of the good will currently being offered to Obama. In relation to the larger than expected number of nations contributing to the additional deployment, the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband stated "I think there has been an Obama effect at this summit. It has been palpable around the table."
6. Promotion of a nuclear free world.
Whilst the timing of his speech in Prague could have been better as it coincided with North Korea launching a missile into orbit as part of their nuclear development program, the sentiment expressed by Obama of a world free of nuclear weapons was one which should have been well received across the globe. It marks a stark contrast from the approach taken by the Bush administration, with a greater emphasis on tightening the web of treaties and amending the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Whether or not these developments will be seen as a success on the US domestic scene remains to be seen. It could be argued that Obama conceded on the issues of international financial regulation and additional troop deployment to Afghanistan. Some may say that his vision of a nuclear free world is naïve and that his popularity amongst world leaders is more to do with them being star struck than overwhelmed with his global vision.
What is certain is that President Obama's first visit to Europe as president has set down a marker for his administration's foreign policy. Time will tell whether his approach will prove successful abroad, and popular at home.
Photo from El_Enigma
Written by Rob Steer