- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2015

With European euphoria for President Obama now just a memory, leaders of the G-7 summit that begins Sunday in Germany are hoping simply for the president to lead on emergencies ranging from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to the Islamic State terrorist group.

Mr. Obama, who was greeted by hundreds of thousands of overjoyed Germans when he visited Berlin before his election in 2008, has seen his popularity drop 20 percentage points in Germany in the last year amid continued anger over U.S. spying and frustration in Europe about the slow pace of global economic recovery.

“There’s been a little bit of disillusionment on the part of the Europeans and some frustration,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, adding that “expectations were too high in many ways.”

Anti-U.S. sentiment in Germany “has only increased over the last year,” said Matthew Goodman, a foreign and economic policy specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“Looking at this six years later, the mood in Germany has considerably darkened against the United States,” Mr. Goodman said. “That’s something we really have to focus on. This NSA issue has been a real harmful wedge in our bilateral relationship.”

The summit, to be held in Bavaria, will focus on Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine. White House aides said Mr. Obama will urge allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron to extend economic sanctions against Russia when European Union leaders meet later this summer.

Russia has not changed its behavior,” Mr. Goodman said. “If anything, President [Vladimir] Putin I think is doubling down on multiple fronts. People don’t know what’s next, how are we going to continue on. … [the summit] is going to be a conversation of exactly where is U.S. thinking. And I think all of the G-7 leaders are going to have a lot of questions for President Obama, focusing on what’s next, what’s the plan.”

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes acknowledged that sanctions imposed against Russia last year have not compelled Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down in Ukraine. But he said sanctions take time to produce the desired results.

“All of their economic indicators are pointing in the wrong direction,” he said of Russia. “And it’s important, though, that that pressure is sustained, because the message has to be that this pressure is not going to go away unless we see a full implementation of a diplomatic solution.”

Mr. Rhodes disagreed with the characterization that European leaders are clamoring for more leadership from Mr. Obama on a variety of issues.

“If you look at the president’s key foreign policy priorities, every single one of them, just about, is supported by these key European partners,” Mr. Rhodes said. “I don’t detect frustration at all on these They’re at the table with us in pursuit of the Iran [nuclear] deal … they’re at the table with us in pursuit of an ambitious climate agreement in Paris at the end of the year.”

Mr. Obama also will hold a bilateral meeting at the summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, amid rising concern that U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are losing ground to the Islamic State.

Trade will be another key topic of discussion, with European leaders watching closely the administration’s effort to win trade-promotion authority in the House to help speed negotiations on Asian and European free-trade agreements.

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