For an insight into US President Barack Obama’s relations with Europe after one year in power, euronews talked to Charles Kupchan, Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
Adrian Lancashire, euronews: Professor Kupchan, how do you think Europe considers US performance on improving relations with the Islamic world?
Charles Kupchan: The spirit, the inclination is a welcome one. I think the speech in Cairo, the town hall meeting in Ankara, the idea that we don’t have a war on terror, it is not good versus evil… these are all positive developments. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make it difficult, I think, for the United States to make progress. Then you have the assassination of the CIA agents, the attempted bombing on Christmas Day, this pushes American politics back in a somewhat more fearful direction.
Adrian Lancashire, euronews: When Obama shows up at a diplomatic meeting like an EU-US summit such as the one Spain will host this May, who is he going to feel the most comfortable dealing with, van Rompuy, Ashton, Barroso or Rodriguez Zapatero?
Charles Kupchan: Well, I think you put your finger on it, which is that the EU is right now in the middle of this transition. The Spanish seem to want to hold on to the traditional trappings of the presidency. Nonetheless, after Lisbon, you have a new President, a new High Representative… so I think that Obama will be careful to pay all these different parties the respect and the attention that is due. But I do think from an American perspective, perhaps for the first time in American history, there is a very strong bipartisan consensus on a strong Europe: the more Europe there is, the better it is for the United States, and so I think he will be all ears when it comes to Europe trying to get a more collective position on foreign and defence policy.
Adrian Lancashire, euronews: And is there… Just to conclude here, is there one final point you could make about EU-US relations, something that really is going to need the most intensive attention?
Charles Kupchan: Well, I would say the relationship is actually on pretty firm ground — certainly a major recovery from the Bush era. But we no longer have the luxury of mainly talking about each other and about ourselves and increasingly the Euro-Atlantic Community is going to have to deal with the rest of the world: the Russians, the Chinese, the Indians, the Brazilians, the so-called ‘BRICs’ [Brazil, Russia, India, China — editor’s note] dealing with proliferation, climate change, health crises. And so the question is: Will we be able to move our dialogue away from ‘what are we doing here in the Atlantic zone?’ to ‘how does the Atlantic zone engage the broader world?’ That is going to be a tough transition to make after 60 years of really being quite concerned, primarily, about ourselves.