By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Concerns in Europe despite Obamas warm welcome
Germany Obama 2008 7557894
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., front, greets supporters after speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin, Thursday, July 24, 2008. - photo by Associated Press
    BERLIN — The warm welcome that washed over Barack Obama during his Berlin appearance Thursday made it abundantly clear that Europeans have a strong desire to heal the trans-Atlantic rift and the Democratic president candidate is a good choice for the job.
    Obama headed on to France and Britain, where he also was expected to be welcomed warmly, but perhaps by not as many people as the 200,000-plus who jammed a rally in the German capital to cheer his calls for change.
    His hailing of America’s long partnership with its Western allies was well received. But analysts said some parts of Obama’s message may not go down well here, particularly his warning that ‘‘Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more — not less’’ on security.
    Most notably, he insisted that ‘‘we must renew our resolve’’ to defeat the Taliban and declared that Afghanistan needs ‘‘our troops and your troops.’’
    That could prove awkward the German governments and others that are trying to balance their commitment to the war in Afghanistan against polls saying that the mission is unpopular with Europeans.
    ‘‘He explicitly called for German soldiers for Afghanistan — he did not say ’more soldiers’ but that was what he meant,’’ commentator Reymer Kluever wrote for the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. ‘‘And Obama also indicated this: he will want support as president to wind up the Iraq adventure. Obama will be expensive for Germany.’’
    Germany has more than 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly in the relatively peaceful north, and has repeatedly resisted pressure from its NATO partners to send them to the volatile south.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before meeting with Obama this week that she would ‘‘make it clear that Germany is not shirking a strengthened commitment, but also will make our limits very clear — just as I have with the current president.’’
    The German news magazine Der Spiegel wrote on its Web site: ‘‘He will call in help from the Germans, British and French in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is unlikely to let NATO off the hook — therein lies the peril of the engaging ’we’ and the catchy ’Yes, we can.’’’
    Germano Dottori, an analyst at Rome’s Center for Strategic Studies, said Obama’s call for a greater commitment in Afghanistan may be difficult to swallow for many in Europe, particularly Germany.
    ‘‘He went on German turf and asked for more troops in Afghanistan and for support in the fight against terrorism,’’ Dottori said. ‘‘This will probably create some embarrassment, especially among Europe’s progressive forces, which already consider Obama a symbol.’’
    Obama’s speech shows that he ‘‘has no intention of demilitarizing American foreign policy and many European countries will have to take that into consideration,’’ Dottori said.
    It was clear from Obama’s warm reception in Berlin that many Europeans have high hopes for him, especially here in a country that has never forgotten U.S. efforts to rebuild Europe after World War II.
    Still, some in the audience questioned the reach of Obama’s goals, including his call that ‘‘we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.’’
    ‘‘Some of the things he talked about were clearly unrealistic,’’ said Friederike Lummel, a resident of Berlin. ‘‘A world without atomic weapons? He can’t have a solution for that.’’
    Gary Smith, executive director of the American Academy in Berlin, called Obama’s approach akin to measured humility.
    ‘‘It was subtle, low key and an indication of what his approach will be if he becomes president,’’ Smith said. ‘‘And it was also an appeal for trust, but not the trust of a leader, but the trust of a partner.’’
    Robert McGeehan, at the Chatham House think tank in London, said Obama’s speech was well-written and well-delivered, but was ‘‘a bit over the top.’’
    ‘‘It was not particularly full of the kind of content that would make you analyze what he was talking about,’’ McGeehan said.
    Associated Press writers Geir Moulson in Berlin, Angela Charlton in Paris, Meera Selva in London and Ariel David in Rome contributed to this report.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter