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Diplomatic implications of Obama's visit to Europe
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17:14, July 29, 2008

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Following his short visit to Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle East countries, US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made stops in Germany, France and the United Kingdom from July 24 to 26.

Obama arrived in Germany on the 24th and met with the German Chancellor and Foreign Minister. He also delivered a keynote speech before the "victory column" in the German capital, Berlin. The public believes that his activities in Germany have diplomatic implications: compared with current US President George W. Bush, Obama has paid more attention to cooperation between Europe and the United States and stressed that Europe should share more responsibility with the United States in responding to the challenges of the contemporary world.

During the meeting between Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a German official expressed that the two sides had a "frank and in-depth" exchange on a number of issues. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, after the meeting with Obama, that he explained Germany's policy on military operations in Afghanistan to the American side and believed that there was no fundamental difference between the two nations' policies; and the two sides were in agreement on major foreign policies. But Obama revealed more in his speech. He listed today's main global concerns, and said that no country alone has the ability to overcome these challenges, no matter how powerful it is. For a period of time, Europe and the United States had been going their separate ways and forgotten their "common destiny," said Obama. Now, Europe and the United States should restore the trust and remove the "wall" in between the two. This obviously refers to the "traditional European" countries who oppose the United States in the Iraq war. Then, Obama changed the subject by saying, "True partnership requires long-lasting effort and sacrifice" and "needs all sides to share the responsibility in development, foreign affairs, progress, peace and other areas".

On the 25th Obama stayed in France for several hours and was received by the French president Sarkozy and warmly welcomed by the French people. The French media feasted on Obama's visit. Obama's photo and reports made the front page in some newspapers, and some websites followed up his itinerary in reports. Internet users expressed their preference for Obama by initiating quite a bit of online discussion. Even books on Obama have been selling like hot cakes in Paris. Clearly, diplomatic action has opened a "window" of opportunity for Obama. He can take advantage of this opportunity to establish his personal prestige and gain more points for his final round in the battle for the White House.

Obama became so popular in Europe because Europeans do have high expectations for the United States. People generally believe that Obama is a candidate that will bring about change to US foreign policy and world peace. Obama was not only opposed to the war against Iraq at the beginning, but also an advocate for withdrawal from Iraq as soon as possible to seek a political solution. He has adopted a tough stance for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons; but meanwhile stresses the necessity of dialogue with so-called "rogue states" and advocated holding an international conference, which would include Iraq, Iran and Syria, in order to defuse tension in the region. In his view, the United States should open the door that has been shut for some time, and conduct unconditional negotiations with North Korea and Cuba. In particular, Obama's intention to consolidate and stabilize transatlantic relations between the U.S. and Europe has helped enhance the common language and create a favorable impression within European countries.

Compared with his visit to France, Obama's visit to the United Kingdom was somewhat low-key. One British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist said, "The ‘Obama Tornado' only ‘lightly entered the United Kingdom'."

Keeping a low profile is clearly an aspect of Obama's visit to the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Brown did a lot of brainstorming on how to receive Obama. He did not arrange any public speech for Obama like the one in Germany which attracted more than 200,000 people. He did not talk about friendship as French President Sarkozy had done. With ingenuity he had a warm talk with Obama at No. 10 Downing Street, and then accompanied Obama to the Horse Guards Parade. According to media reports, Brown had three reasons to proceed in this way. First, he does not want to vigorously express his preference in the U.S. presidential election. Second, he wants to keep the balance between the US candidates Obama and John McCain; the latter also visited the UK earlier this year. Third, he is focusing on enhancing his personal relationship with Obama so as to maintain good relations should Obama become President of the United States.

Enhancing the UK-US relationship is the focus of the British reception of Obama. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Obama for breakfast; Brown and Obama had in-depth talks in the gardens; UK opposition leader David Cameron had a meeting with Obama at the Westminster parliament building…all of these are for the purpose to enhance the relationship with the one "who is mostly likely to become the President of the United States", so as to strengthen the UK-US relationship. It seems that the British did not waste the time. Obama openly praised the special relationship between the United States and Britain. He said that the United States and United Kingdom share same language and the same beliefs, both experienced two world wars, and hold same view towards world order. As a result, both the United States and the United Kingdom need to strengthen cooperation, so together they can cope with major issues such as climate change, terrorism and the global economy.

By People's Daily Online




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