Monday, September 14, 2009
President Barack Obama is not unpopular in Eastern European countries, but instead of a 90% approval rating, he's at 67% in four countries, as AP reports:
"Czechs feel betrayed, Poles irked, Romanians slighted. Ask them who's to blame, and the answer may come as a surprise: President Barack Obama.This hardly qualifies as a crisis for the Obama administration or the State Department. From the standpoint of Eastern Europeans, they probably want to know that their leaders can lobby someone in Washington the next time some Putin-approved Russian oligarch tries to jack up contractually fixed natural gas prices during a cold winter (good luck with that, by the way).
"George W. Bush fawned over Eastern Europe, and its leaders rushed to join his post-9/11 'coalition of the willing.' Now many — officials and ordinary citizens alike — are grumbling over what they perceive as the Obama administration's neglect...
"...Two in three Bulgarians, Czechs, Poles and Romanians approve of Obama's foreign policy, according to a survey published earlier this month by the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan policy group. That may seem robust, but it pales in comparison to backing for Obama in Western Europe, where nine in 10 respondents support him."
But a 90% foreign policy approval rating in Western Europe? That borders on worship, and has to be among the highest figures ever attained by a sitting U.S. President. I just wish I could be sure that it is entirely a good thing, in the sense that if 90% of Western Europeans liked any one particular person or thing from America, that would make me question it (Jerry Lewis comes to mind, since we are just past Labor Day). I would imagine that President Obama could serve in some senior capacity in the EU once his years of service here are completed. I do not know his language skills beyond English, but I don't think that he would run across any, er, citizenship controversies.
Neglect? Neglect would be benign. Offering to sell out Eastern Europe (by canceling troop re-deployments to E. European bases, for example, and killing ABM Defense there) is more like it. Up until about May, it was a very clear possibility (like, being actively discussed in the media) that Obama was going throw E. Europe to the bear in return for aid in Central Asia/Afghanistan. Remember all that hubbub about what kind of military supplies would be allowed across Russian territory?
This summer, Russia granted military passage rights through their territory. Think they did that for free? I don't...
I just returned from 2 weeks in Germany with a quick stop in Zurich. While in Germany I saw and heard nothing "political" other than campaign posters for the upcoming elections, i.e., nothing pro/anti Obama. No commentary when people heard I was an American.
In Zurich, however, there were large flower pots (big enough to hold small trees) on the downtown streets, each painted in a unique way (they do this here -- a couple of years ago it was bears, then cows, etc.) The flower pots said "yes we can". I also saw a bunch of "truther" graffiti on the sidewalks (you know, the "Bush planned 9/11 sort of thing"). And the random Che Guevara icon.
Just an observation that, unlike in prior trips to western Europe, I didn't detect much if any interest in American politics.
Update... according to 'Washington sources' the Obama administration is moving now to cancel missile defense in eastern Europe.
"Four senior Obama officials, including Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security “Sandy” Vershbow, are apparently in the air right now on their way to Poland. Why? If the Washington hot rumor mill is right, to deliver the news to the Poles and then the Czechs that the administration has decided not to go forward with a missile defense system for Europe and the United States against the budding missile threat from Iran."
Told you they didn't do it for free.
They don't do it for free! Churchill tries to turn in his grave!
Obama blows off Eastern Europe! I think you would enjoy this article. And keep up the good fight!