Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The World Tests the “Young and Brilliant” President

Remember I quoted a remark by current Vice President Joseph Biden during the last election campaign on this blog.

Mark my words: It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Watch, we’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. He’s going to have to make some really tough - I don’t know what the decision’s going to be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it’s going to happen.

Since the inauguration, President Barack Obama has been focusing on domestic economy. However, he is going to make a real debut in international politics in early April. The young and brilliant president is popular but inexperienced in foreign affairs. If he fails to manage numerous agendas on his trip, the world will regard America as weak.

Obama will attend G20 London Summit and NATO 60th Anniversary Summit. Moreover, Obama will attend the EU Summit in Prague, Czech, and visit Turkey after NATO Summit (“Obama Prepares for European Trip”; VOA News; 30 March 2009). During this long trip to Europe, Obama will face the North Korean Missile Crisis between April 4 and 8. This subsequence will be the first test for the young and brilliant president.

In London, President Obama will discuss the financial crisis and economic stimulus with industrialized and developing nations. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said "The president and America are going to listen in London, as well as to lead" (“A busy agenda fuels Obama's first trip to Europe”; AP; March 31, 2009). However, European leaders are critical to the Obama administration’s stimulus plan for fear of further economic crisis associated with severe inflation (“Ahead of G20, Europe Rebuffs Stimulus Spending”; NPR; March 29, 2009). The London Summit is not just a conference on the global economy. This is the first face to face meeting for Obama with Russian and Chinese leaders.

NATO Summit in Strasburg and Kehl is a landmark to develop the trans-Atlantic alliance as France has come back to NATO command structure at the 60th anniversary of the organization. As Obama has announced a new strategy in Afghanistan the other day, this will be the primary agenda at the summit, and he will demand allies to make further contribution to US operations. In addition, Ukraine and Georgia will continue to be key issues. Both are related to Russian resurgence, and intertwined with the Missile Defense issue to be discussed in Prague.

Helene Cooper of the New York Times points out that Obama will confront resentment over American styled capitalism and have to persuade reluctant European allies to make further commitment to Afghanistan. She says his popularity does not help him deal with such a defiant world (“Obama Will Face a Defiant World on Foreign Visit”; New York Times; March 28, 2009).

While President Obama is on a busy diplomatic tour in Europe, he is expected to face another problem in North East Asia. It is utterly important to stop North Korea from launching missiles. Even if Kim Jong Il fires the missile, the United States must make him understand that his expansionist ambition is completely intolerable to the global community. Also, it is necessary to curtail Chinese and Russian influence on the Korean Peninsula while exploring common ground for non-proliferation.

Mark the words by Vice President Joseph Biden, to see what happens in April. Will President Barack Obama pass the first test by the world? We can see the result not immediately but in a few months.