Facing a worsening economic situation and a war in Iraq that will be difficult to end—in short, grave overstretch—the next U.S. administration will seek to return to a more multilateral foreign policy and attempt to work closely with Europe. But Europe may not be willing or able to meet American expectations to play a larger role in international security.

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Russia Oil Tanks

Oil prices have plummeted in recent weeks, hitting a 20-month low of $59 per barrel, a 60 percent drop-off from its summer high of $147.  One might reasonably think that this would be crippling to a country like Russia, which relies so heavily on energy exports to stake its claim to major power status. 

The Troika Dialog team, though, argues that it's much more complicated than that.

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Obama

During the campaign, Barack Obama repeatedly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Afghanistan.  Most notably, he argued that we had been distracted by the war in Iraq and had diverted resources to that conflict, which he opposed, that could better have been devoted to fighting al Qaeda and finding Osama bin Laden.  Now that he's been elected, he's about to become responsible for producing results.

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"You were given the choice between war and dishonour.  You chose dishonour and you will have war."  (Winston Churchill to Neville Chamberlain on the occasion of the Munich Agreement, 1938)

The European Union stepped closer last week to resuming the partnership talks with Moscow that it suspended in the wake of Russia’s August invasion of Georgia.  Never mind that Russia remains in flagrant violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire agreements of August 12 and September 8.  “Indignation is not a policy,” EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana told a Paris conference.  Business as usual, however, is a policy—the policy Solana wants.  Europe’s High Representative may not care that Georgia’s security is at stake, but he should mind that Europe’s credibility is in jeopardy too.

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All week, we've been featuring thoughts from expert commentors on what they believe should be the Foreign Policy Priorities for the Next President

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The European public and its leaders have embraced Barack Obama’s victory while, in most cases, expressing some reservations.

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Dmitri Medvedev and Hu Jintao

The Atlantic Council’s Robert Manning recently focused our attention on the October Asia-Europe Summit in Beijing.  We Americans might have missed the significance of the emerging multipolarity and shifts in global power while up to our elbows in election politics and financial woes.

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Editor's note: We polled several friends of the Atlantic Council last week on the question What are the top foreign policy priorities for the next president?   We'll be running their responses all week.

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Editor's note: We polled several friends of the Atlantic Council last week on the question What are the top foreign policy priorities for the next president?   We'll be running their responses all week.

The next president should pay particular attention to five foreign policy objectives.  The following are not listed in order of priority.  Some are urgent, some are of more long-term importance, and some are both.  It is important to point out that all five require concerted U.S.-European cooperation, so transatlantic cohesion is a cross-cutting priority for each.

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Editor's note: We polled several friends of the Atlantic Council last week on the question What are the top foreign policy priorities for the next president?   We'll be running their responses all week.

Aside from the obvious war priorities of Iraq and Afghanistan and managing the world economic crisis, I'd list (not necessarily in order) :
 
Iran and non-proliferation — There may be an opening for some real progress. If not there will be an early need for some very tough decisions on sanctions, defenses, Gulf cooperation, and (possibly) military action.
 
Russia — In the early months, the new team will need to figure out a strategic approach Russia, not just on the important specific questions of arms control, Georgia, and Iran, but more generally.
 
Nuclear weapons — What are they for in the 21st Century, what arms control measures should replace START II, what (if any) programs -- RRW, Deep Penetrator, etc. - are needed, what organizational arrangements to strengthen oversight and management?
 
Israel-Palestine — As soon as there is an Israel government, how to restart the negotiations process, and more relevant, how to build a capacity in the PA to suppress terrorism from the WB that will give Israel the confidence to reach agreement -- and to take the interim measures on settlements and movement that are likely to be needed for the PA to take hard decisions and make them stick.
 
The reality of the new President — if it's Obama -- there will be a boost, but also a let down when it turns out he puts Country First, and if it's McCain, there will be a let down, period, until he shows there is Change We Can Believe In.  This is my formulation of the "restore America's prestige/reputation" question. 

Walter Slocombe, secretary of the Atlantic Council board of directors, is a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Debate word cloud from Flickr user EricaJoy, used under Creative Commons license.