As President Obama prepares to play host to a doubleheader of global diplomacy at the Group of Eight and NATO summits this weekend, there are increasing signs that the world is tuning out his message.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping the G-8 meeting that begins Friday at Camp David, Md., a startling display of disrespect for Mr. Obama, foreign policy analysts say. The just-elected Mr. Putin has said he needs time to put his Cabinet of advisers together, dispatching Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the U.S. as his surrogate.
French voters gave the bum’s rush this month to Mr. Obama’s ally, President Nicolas Sarkozy, in favor of socialist Francois Hollande, who campaigned in part on a pledge to withdraw France’s 3,400 troops from Afghanistan sooner than Mr. Obama desires.
Then there’s the European debt crisis, which only has deepened since Mr. Obama urged the Continent’s leaders to solve their problems last November at a conference in France. But U.S. officials have been largely sidelined in the European debate, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, head of the eurozone’s most powerful economy, embracing a policy of economic austerity largely opposed in Washington.
At the Camp David summit, observers say, Mr. Obama will have little leverage over Europe’s fiscal emergency, while the economic slowdown across the Atlantic still could engulf the United States before the November elections.
Some observers even question the need for the G-8 anymore, given that the Group of 20 industrialized nations has taken a more prominent role in addressing global economic issues.
Bruce Jones, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noted that the G-8, which includes traditional industrial powers plus Russia, doesn’t include such “important voices” as China, South Korea, Australia, Turkey, Brazil or India. He called the G-8 “a body that’s a little bit betwixt and between.”
But Michael Froman, a deputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, said the group’s “intimacy” is useful for handling a broad range of economic and security concerns.
A focus of the G-8 and the NATO summit in Chicago, which begins Sunday, will be the troubled mission in Afghanistan and the timetable for turning over security to Afghanistan’s own forces. In addition to grappling with allies who are eager to rush for the exits of that military theater, Mr. Obama is facing international partners reluctant to contribute up to $1.3 billion of the estimated $4 billion annual cost of providing support to Afghan forces beyond 2014.
Another factor working against Mr. Obama at these meetings is his status as a potential lame duck, given his tight race against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Ms. Conley said the pending election means the president’s “role is somewhat limited,” but he “can play a role of listening, helping leaders find common ground.”
Whatever the outcome of these summits, the bar isn’t set very high for Mr. Obama to do better than at his last two international conferences.
In April, his attendance at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was completely overshadowed by the news that some of his Secret Service agents and other security personnel hired prostitutes.
And in March, Mr. Obama stole his own thunder at a nuclear security summit in Seoul by engaging in a “hot mic” gaffe with Mr. Medvedev, then the president of Russia preparing to cede the top job in Moscow back to Mr. Putin. Mr. Obama was caught asking the Russian leader for more breathing room on missile-defense talks until after the November elections, when he would have more “flexibility.”View Entire Story
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Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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