Transatlantic Relations in Obama’s “Post-Western World”

From the New York Times: The Obama presidency has been a shock to Europe. At heart, Obama is not a Westerner, not an Atlanticist. He grew up partly in Indonesia and partly in Hawaii, which is about as far from the East Coast as you can get in the United States. “He’s very much a member of the post-Western world,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund…

One by one European leaders have been disappointed by the president’s cool remoteness. A jilted feeling has spread.

In fact, Obama is a pure pragmatist. He wants Europe’s help, particularly in Afghanistan, but he has no misty-eyed vision of Atlanticism and sees more pressing strategic priorities in China, India, the Middle East and Russia. He is transitioning the United States to the post-Western world, which is another way of saying he is adapting America to a world in which its relative power is eroding…

The situation was well summarized by Jeremy Shapiro and Nick Witney in a report for the European Council on Foreign Relations that described the European attitude to the United States as “basically infantile and fetishistic.” By this, they meant the way European states exist in a form of obsessive dependency on the United States (even as they criticize it) that prevents them from forming strong E.U. positions.

“America wants to be Europe’s partner, not its patron; but it cannot be responsible from without for weaning Europe off its client status,” they wrote, adding that, “An incoherent and ineffective assemblage of European states will be increasingly marginalized.” (photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty)

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