David Vickrey, editor of Dialog International and a volunteer for Senator Obama's presidential campaign, discusses in the following guest blog post the likely development of transatlantic relations in an Obama presidency:
Recently Stern Magazine polled German readers concerning who they supported in the US primaries in the race for president. Barack Obama was the clear preference. You could say that Obamamania has gripped Europe just as it has much of America. Many Germans share the view of Elmar Brok - a German member of the European Parliament- that "Obama's candidacy is romantic".
But would an Obama administration meet the expectations of his European fans? Or is this a case of "be careful what you wish for" and the reality of a President Obama will disappoint?
Obama has said very little about his views on Europe and transatlantic relations. The focus of his campaign has understandably been on his plans to end the war in Iraq and his policies for addressing the economic meltdown in the US. But he has written and spoken enough about foreign policy to provide some clues on his approach to Europe:
Stephen Szabo of the German Marshall Fund was recently interviewed in Der Spiegel and spoke about what an Obama presidency would mean for Germany and Europe. Szabo points out both the positives and negatives:
The Democrats will do all the things the Europeans have long been demanding. They will say: "We are more like you. We are multilateral. We believe in international law. And we are going to close Guantanamo." In return, they are going to expect a reaction from Europe -- with the expectation that Europe take on more responsibility in Kosovo and, especially, in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan issue is the one that concerns me most.
Indeed, Obama has been consistent in contrasting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, viewing Afghanistan as a necessary conflict and criticizing the NATO partners for not doing more. This could be huge source of friction between Germany and the US in an Obama administration. Still, Szabo feels that Obama would be a net plus for Europe, since he shares a post-Cold War mentality and is open to engaging with adversaries - including Iran and Cuba. This is much more in tune with the European Weltanschauung.
Julianne Smith, Director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C., also speculates on how Europe would fare under an Obama presidency in a piece on the Atlantic Community Web site. She comes to many of the same conclusions as Stephen Szabo. But she stresses Obama's commitment to the rule of law, which will allow Europe to make a clean break with the US-German relations of the past 7 years:
On rule-of-law issues, Obama has committed to closing Guantanamo prison and prohibiting the use of torture as an interrogation technique. Europeans may also be interested in knowing that Obama would like to limit the use of extraordinary rendition - an issue that has created considerable tension in the transatlantic relationship in recent years. Obama hopes that these measures would allow Europeans and Americans to return to a shared counter terrorism agenda based on trust and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law.
Undoubtedly there will be some frictions, since US and European interests can never be 100% aligned. But going forward the transatlantic alliance will be based on shared values, and that will lead to a new era of closer cooperation.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: