- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

President Obama on Friday visited Berlin — once the divide between East and West in the Cold War — to urged thousands to join the effort to create a world without nuclear weapons.

“We have too much at stake to turn back now,” Mr. Obama said amid cheers from the crowd, assembled not far from where the Berlin Wall once stood. “Reject the cold war mindset of the past.”

Mr. Obama visited Germany as part of his first overseas trip as president — going first to London to join other world leaders for the G-20 global economic summit that ended Thursday, then to a NATO summit Saturday in France.

Before arriving in Germany, Mr. Obama gave a speech in Strasbourg, France, then spoke at a similar rally in which he answered several questions from the audience. Mr. Obama, in his speech, called on North Korea to stop its plans to launch a ballistic missile in the next few days and said the United States would respond by leading an international movement to penalize the country.

“We have made very clear to the North Korean’s that their missile launch is provocative,” he said after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “They should stop the launch.”


Obama makes pitch to French youth

In his call for a “new dawn,” Mr. Obama urged the crowd in Germany to join in the efforts to work with Russia. He also said Iran must abandon its “nuclear ambition” and urged those in attendance to support Israel and Palestine’s efforts to live in peace.

Amid several small, U.S. flags held by spectators and fluttering in the breeze, Mr. Obama acknowledged the United States has made mistakes but said he still has a “great love for America.”

In France earlier in the day, Mr. Obama challenged the crowd of several thousand to rethink their anti-American biases, telling them that the United States itself is turning a new page to become a better partner to the world.

The president then pivoted from his cultural message to tell the audience that the war in Afghanistan is a necessary fight, a prelude to the challenge he plans to give European leaders on Friday night to do more to help the war there.

Mr. Obama, speaking to an audience of more than 3,000 young people from France and Germany in a sports arena, said that Americans have at times “shown arrogance and been dismissive” of Europe, due to a “a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.”

“But in Europe there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world there have been times where Europeans have chosen to blame America,” he said.

“On both sides of the Atlantic these views have become all too common,” Mr. Obama said, but added that “America is changing.”

“But it cannot be America alone that changes,” he said. He said that he had come to Europe “to renew our relationship,” but said that the trans-Atlantic partnership must be “one where our friends and allies bear their share of burden.”

“Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone. This is a joint problem. It requires joint effort,” he said, to which the crowd responded with applause.

The crowd, which cheered wildly as Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama entered the arena, and at other points during the speech, was silent during this portion.

Mr. Obama planned later in the day to press Europeans to contribute “more military and civilian assistance” in Afghanistan, following his recent announcement that he will send 21,000 more U.S. troops to fight in the war there.

The U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan now stands at about 58,000, compared to 32,000 from other countries, in what is supposed to be a coalition run by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“The responsibility is there for Europe to step up,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. “This is more than the concern of the United States, but rather the concern of the world.”

Mr. Gibbs said that Mr. Obama is specifically looking “to make progress on ensuring security for the upcoming elections in August, ensuring that we have in all of thee the resources now to match the [new U.S.] strategy, and hopefully progress on things such as police training… the civilian side, health, and also developmental aid for Pakistan.”

Mr. Obama sought to persuade the crowd of college-age young people that the war in Afghanistan is something their countries should be committed to.

“Some ask questions about why are we still in Afghanistan: ‘What does this mean? What is its purpose?’” he said.

“We would not deploy our own troops if this mission was not indispensable to our own common security,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama also said earlier in the day, following a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, that he would like to “see Europe have much more robust defense capabilities.”

“We’re not looking to be the patron of Europe. We’re looking to be partners…the more capable they are defensively, the more we can act in concert on the shared challenges that we face,” he said.

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