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Obama, US Politics, and Transatlantic Relations

Change or Continuity?

Series:

Edited By Giles Scott-Smith

In November 2008 Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States after a campaign that promised change and renewal. Many in the United States – and Europe – hoped for a new beginning. But what has been achieved?
The nineteen essays in this book provide a timely assessment of the ‘Obama Effect’ in transatlantic relations during the first years of his administration. Ranging from Obama’s importance within US domestic politics to his impact on specific policy areas (national security, international law, the environment) and regions (Middle East, South Asia), the book combines perspectives from the United States and across the European continent to present a unique multi-layered assessment of Obama’s political influence and the current state of play within US-European relations.

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PART II. US FOREIGN POLICY AND SECURITY

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PART II US FOREIGN POLICY AND SECURITY 69 The View from NATO Jamie SHEA Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO HQ US presidential elections are seen by Europeans as so important for the fate of the rest of the world that they should have the right to vote in them.1 Certainly the election night celebrations on the occasion of Barack Obama’s victory in November 2008 were almost as jubilant in European capitals as at the Democratic Party campaign headquarters in Washington DC. Obama’s popularity in Europe had already been mani- fest when, as a candidate, he had addressed a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin. Was this because after 8 years of George W. Bush, and many US-Europe differences over issues such as Iraq, how to handle terror- ism, the usefulness of multilateralism and the rule of law, Europeans were ready to embrace “anyone but Bush”, and especially from the rival party? Or was it due to the charisma and political vision of candidate Obama himself? Undoubtedly a mixture of the two, but with a strong leaning towards the former. Europeans by and large expected Obama to be a “European President”: one who would give the European Union pride of place among Washington’s international partners; who would abandon unilateral approaches and forge common positions with Europe on all the major global challenges: and who would abandon American exceptionalism and subject the United States to the same rules and constraints applying to everyone else. Three years on, and...

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