Friday, August 13, 2010


"The US and the European Union may hold a summit in Lisbon in November, to make up for President Barack Obama’s decision not to attend such a meeting in Spain earlier this year. The summit could cover issues such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, counter-terrorism and broader foreign policy, the two sides say.

But the proposed Lisbon meeting – which would be tacked on to a Nato summit in the Portuguese capital – might not be enough to convince Brussels of Mr Obama’s enthusiasm for the EU. Despite multiple trips to Europe, Mr Obama has been attacked by some of his domestic critics for concentrating on countries such as Russia, China and Pakistan at the expense of traditional US allies – particularly at the start of his term in office.

“Not being a problem does not mean we should not be a priority,” said João Vale de Almeida, who this week became the EU’s ambassador to Washington. “There’s untapped potential in this relationship ... We can co-operate better on foreign policy, from Iran to Pakistan, to the Middle East and the Balkans.”

He adds that the two sides should also co-ordinate more over their positions in forums such as the G20 and on climate change. The EU is keen to deepen co-operation in the wake of its own institutional reforms, which are now taking effect after a decade of planning. They include the creation of a new president of the European Council of leaders, a high representative for foreign policy and a new European External Action Service.

Mr Vale de Almeida said the Europeans needed to be “faster in delivery” on agreements with the US, but also called for “more investment [in the relationship] on the American side considering how reliable the European partners are and how useful they can be”. One area where both sides say the Europeans have helped meet US goals is Iran, where last month the EU agreed sweeping sanctions long sought by Washington.

But in a sign that the relationship still has challenges, one of the first acts taken by the European parliament after its powers were expanded was to vote down a bank data sharing agreement with the US Washington says is essential in the fight against terrorism. The parliament only gave its backing to the deal after five months of high level US visits, including Vice-president Joe Biden, attorney-general Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

Washington also signalled that European leaders should not have excessive expectations of personal contact with Mr Obama. “This president is not a schmoozer – he doesn’t hang out,” said a senior administration official. “We don’t feel the need to profess love because it’s a fact of life that Europe is our main partner, in everything that we do in the world … Do you need to say that all the time?”

David Dombey, "US AND EU in talks on foreign policy summit," 12 April 2010,

"Dean Acheson has a remarkable intellectual brilliance. His mind never dawdles. Despite a natural courtesy, his gifts can edge him to intolerance. He does not suffer fools gladly, which suffering is a large part of diplomacy. Yes Acheson is above all a loyal colleague.
I would never hesitate to go tiger-hunting with him."

Sir Anthony Eden, The Full Circle: The Memoirs of the Rt. Honorable Sir Anthony Eden (1960),
p. 200.

The peevish and irritated tone of the official comment to the Financial Times in yesterday's edition, are a reflection of a greater problem with the current American administration. Notwithstanding the alleged brilliance of some of its members including its head (although in fact as compared to Dean Acheson all seem to have the stature of a group of Pygmies), there seems to be an unusually severe lack of empathy for the USA's allies, especially those of Europe and Japan. Additionally, there seems to be an ignorance of the rules of the diplomatic game. The fact that the American President's chef de Cabinet, Mr. Emmanuel (presuming that the 'senior administration official', was in fact him), was deputized to make this statement, rather than say the National Security Advisor, speaks volumes as well. The overall effect of this particular little incident, and its precursor (the failure to attend the prior EU Foreign Policy Summit earlier this year). Now, I will be the very first to admit that negotiating with the EU as a whole is, is the diplomatic equivalent to negotiating with jello or swiss cheese. And, immediately recalls former Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger dictum that if he wished to pick-up the telephone and 'call Europe, who exactly should he telephone?' However, as the recent sanctions imposed recently on Persia show, our European partners, can and do produce, diplomatically, if they are engaged and persuaded of the sense of a particular diplomatic path. The overall effect of this particular little incident, and its precursor (the failure to attend the prior EU foreign policy summit earlier this year) is to raise more disturbing questions about the diplomatic skills and general foreign policy of the current Administration. As a commentator recently noted in the London Spectator on Prime Minister Cameron's recent trip to the White House:

"The other factor that must not be discounted in any analysis of Mr. Cameron's attempt to reposition Britain's international profile is the government's growing disenchantment with the transatlantic partnership with the US. For all the stage-managed bonhomie of Mr. Cameron's summit with Mr. Obama, there is unease with Mr. Obama's ability to demonstrate effective leadership on the world stage. 'There is a growing awareness that we are dealing with a weak American President who is failing to demonstrate effective leadership on a whole range of issues', one of Mr. Cameron's senior security advisors recently confided to me.
'On Iran [Persia], on Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinians, the perception is growing that there is a dangerous lack of leadership coming from the White House'."

Con Coughlin, "Cameron has given up on Afghanistan," The Spectator, 31 July 2010, p. 13.

A growing and dangerous perception which the maladroit and ill-conceived statements quoted in the Financial Times will only add to. Should one add that one does not anticipate anytime soon that senior American officials will be receiving invitations to go Tiger Hunting by their European counter-parts?


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