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Sufferings instead of security: Europe is reaping the fruits of Barack Obama’s “illusive” foreign policy

Obama in Hannover. Photo: AP

It was eight years ago in Germany that then presidential hopeful Barack Obama expressed his wish to change the world. Then he promised a dawn of democracy in the Middle East, a world without nuclear weapons, new horizons for free trade and no more “cold” war. When speaking in Hannover last Monday, on Apr 25, Obama was not as ambitious as eight years before. And, of course, he did not speak about the results of his electoral program. In fact, he admitted that the plans he had before entering the White House had not been fulfilled. Instead, he urged his European allies to do more for their common security.

Of course, we can’t say that Obama has not achieved any results at all. His predecessor handed him down two wars and a global financial crisis. Obama has managed to revise the United States’ biased attitude towards climate change and to involve China in a global climate change deal. After almost half a century of confrontation, he has restored diplomatic relations with Cuba and has attained consensus on Iran’s nuclear program. Obama has kept his promise to withdraw US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has failed to ensure stability there. Instead, he has faced new challenges in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Taliban is close to seizing power in Afghanistan, while Iraq has collapsed as a state to become a hotbed for ISIL. Today, few people remember that in 2009 Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize for his peacemaking promises. Today, after eight years of presidency, Obama has failed to make the world safer and is facing charges of being double-faced in his security policy. More and more people are beginning to blame his country for a strategy to disintegrate the territory of another continent.

After eight years as US President, Obama is no longer eager to achieve his challenging goals and prefers solving the foreign political tasks of his country’s global empire. In his comment on Obama’s last world tour, his deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes admitted that the United States’ need collective efforts for solving its foreign problems. In fact, he admitted that the Americans have no resources of their own for pushing their interests in the world’s trouble spots and that those crises may cause them and their allies lots of undesirable problems. In Hannover Obama confessed that the war with ISIL in Syria might take years and might need collective efforts. But in the course of years ISIL may become even stronger.

Obama’s tour has shown that global leadership requires him too much effort for coordinating different incompatible interests. In Riyadh Obama tried hard to convince his Saudi allies that he is not giving preference to Iran. And in so doing he hinted that the Gulf states should stop relying too much on the United States in security matters. He advised King Salman to try to find some diplomatic ways to solve his problems with Iran. In fact, Obama meant that the United States would not support Saudi Arabia if it started a war with Iran. As a result, the US president faced a fiasco in Riyadh.

While speaking in Hannover, Obama explained why the Americans were going to enlarge their anti-ISIL forces in Syria. Obama is planning to send 250 instructors for training local forces. By local forces Obama certainly meant Kurds – his key anti-ISIL ally in Syria but also a growing problem for his bigger ally, Turkey.

In Hannover, Obama spoke about the urgent tasks of the American hegemony in Europe: the British EU referendum and the US-Europe free trade deal. The former is a potential threat to the EU’s integrity, while the latter is beyond Obama’s competence as even if ever signed, this deal will be signed when Obama will no longer be president.

In Europe, Obama met with the key G7 leaders – France, Germany, the UK and Italy. He did not meet with EU-level officials, which proves that the EU has little to do with his European tasks - especially as in New Europe (Eastern Europe) he has quite different goals. This multi-policy approach towards Europe proves that the United States dominates in that continent. But, on the other hand, it makes it harder for the Americans to keep Europe united in the face of growing Eurasian integration.

In Hannover, Obama admitted that Europe is growing weaker due to challenges like economic decline, growing immigration and the Ukrainian crisis. Today, the United States’ European allies are becoming increasingly suspicious of one another, while in the east the Americans are facing growing anti-American moods.

Though looking quite illusive, Obama’s foreign policy has been a clear strategy to destabilize the world and now his European allies are facing the consequences. Obama spoke a lot about migration, particularly, about measures to prevent illegal immigration from Libya. It was Obama who forced the Europeans to begin a military intervention in Libya in 2011 and now they are reaping the fruits. The Americans’ adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have convinced the Europeans that they should better keep away from the places where even the Americans are helpless.

In Hannover, Obama urged the Europeans to help Iraq to restore its economy. But can a warring country restore its economy? Obama’s words reflected his disappointment with Europe’s peacemaking role in Syria and Iraq. The global anti-ISIL coalition remains a formality as none of the Americans’ European allies has expressed readiness to send troops to Syria.

No single US president has ever been so insisting in urging Europe to be united as Obama was in Hannover. “If we do not solve these problems, you start seeing those who would try to exploit these fears and frustrations and channel them in a destructive way," Obama said. “If a unified, peaceful, liberal, pluralistic, free-market Europe begins to doubt itself, begins to question the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, then we can’t expect the progress that is just now taking hold in many places around the world will continue,” the US president added. But it was due to the promises given by Obama in 2008 and the fruits his global policy yielded in 2016 that we have seen that the “progress” is not inevitable. In Hannover, Obama admitted that the United States cannot eliminate all sufferings in the world but its task is not to let them grow.

He also complained that not all European allies are active in the framework of NATO. The military budgets of most of them are not equivalent to the United States’ security efforts. In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that by 2020 Germany’s military budget will be enlarged from 34.3bn EUR to 39.2bn EUR. But this is not enough to Obama as, according to its NATO obligations, Germany should spend on military needs 2% of its GDP or no less than 60bn EUR. Obama also wants Merkel to be more active against Russia and, particularly, to send troops to NATO’s eastern flanks. Here Obama is trying to dispel the Europeans’ illusions that the Americans are guaranteeing their security just because they also need to be secure. What he meant is that the Europeans should pay for security: either by joining the Americans’ military ventures or in some other way. And it was here that he mentioned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.

In fact, the present-day “democratic American empire” in its transatlantic form resembles the First Athenian Sea Union. The key motive for ancient Greek cities to unite was the need to confront a common enemy – the Persian Empire. The allies formed a joint force with the commander being the Athens. But during peace times they no longer needed the money they were paying into the common budget. So, at some moment, the Athenians decided to take that budget home and to use it for their own purposes. The junior allies did not mind and continued paying the fee as a guarantee that the hegemon, the Athens, would protect them. As a result, the union turned into a kind of a “democratic empire.”

In a similar way the Americans need to establish their hegemony over their European allies and TTIP is supposed to help them in the matter. This deal means that in exchange for security the Europeans will have to pay in trade preferences. Over the last years the Americans have proved to be unable to cope with the conflicts they have produced on their own and are beginning to claim unity and contribution from their allies. This was the background of Obama’s global tour and this is the heritage he will hand to his successor soon.

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