ISTANBUL, Turkey — The president’s top advisers on Tuesday compared President Obama’s trip through Europe to a farmer planting his crops, saying he is pleased with the progress he made but expects the real payoffs to come down the road.
“There were some things that were accomplished here, but over time the seeds that were planted here are going to be very valuable for the security and progress of the United States,” said senior adviser David Axelrod, briefing reporters as Obama toured cultural sites in this historic city.
“There will be a harvest. It will come at different times and in different ways. But the seeds were planted. And that was the goal of this trip,” Axelrod said.
Obama began his maiden voyage as commander-in-chief one week ago with a three-day visit to London for the G-20 economic summit, followed by a two-day stay in France focused on NATO’s role in Afghanistan, then a one-day stop in Prague and two days here in Turkey.
Though Axelrod and other top advisers stressed that they have a long view on foreign policy results, they adhered to the traditional practice of declaring the trip a smashing success in what it produced.
They pointed to an agreement at the G-20 on stimulus spending and global financial regulation, to commitments from NATO allies to send troops and military and police trainers to Afghanistan, and to the overwhelmingly positive reaction from world leaders, crowds in foreign cities, and even the world press.
“I can’t really remember an American president who had as extensive and productive a week of meetings across the span of events that this president has participated in this week,” he said.
But there are questions about how much of what was committed at the G-20 was actually new and whether the measures agreed to will stop or even stem the economic bleeding, about whether European allies will do anything further to help in Afghanistan, and about how much Obama’s popularity and winsome approach will actually produce in tangible results.
Axelrod said Obama’s intentional effort to restore America’s global image will pay dividends, even on such thorny issues as Iran and North Korea’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon.
“It’s easier to form a united front when there isn’t this obstacle of very negative opinion in the various countries with whom we’re allied,” he said.
Asked to expound on what went badly on this trip, Axelrod scoffed.
“I don’t think you actually expect us to answer that question,” he said. “Why didn’t the waters part, the sun shine and all ills of the world disappear because President Obama came to Europe? That wasn’t our expectation. That will take a few weeks.”