Global Politics

President Obama starts this week's trip to Europe in a country where his popularity is huge

Nuclear Summit.jpg

Credit: Nuclear Security Summit

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, 2010.

Obama has a packed week ahead dealing with nuclear security, rallying European leaders to respond to Russia and even meeting with Pope Francis. And while his approval rating in the US was 48 percent in a Friday poll, he's starting his trip in a nation where that number is likely much higher: the Netherlands.

Player utilities

(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

On Monday, he attends the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, a series of meetings that Obama launched to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

"We are very much a strong ally of USA," says historian Willem Post of the Clingendael, a Dutch institute for international relations. President Obama's approval ratings may dip in the US, but not in the Netherlands, he says. The president will get a very, very warm welcome.

"These countries in Western Europe are really Obama countries," Post says. "I think that has to do with the fact that this is a US president who calls himself a global citizen [and urges] diplomacy first. That's a little bit different than in the Bush era. And here this Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague is a multi-lateral phenomenon and one of the top priorities of the president. So people see this is Obama once again stressing diplomacy and saying ‘let's do it together.’"

Post says neither the NSA surveillance revelations nor the crisis in Ukraine has soured the sympathetic Dutch view toward Obama. 

One reason for this support, suggests Post, is that many of the Dutch understand Obama's challenges. The Netherlands has a Tea Party-like movement, he says, where Geert Wilders is the right wing populace leader in the Netherlands and is in the opposition.

"He's quite a phenomenon," Post says. "So in the Netherlands, a lot of people understand what the challenge is for the President Obama in the US in this very politicized, polar climate. People understand how complicated the road is."

As a small country, the Netherlands also feels vulnerable. Obama's approach, argues Post, of admitting that the US doesn't have unlimited power and wanting to work with Europe on a unified approach to problems is a big part of Obama's appeal. 

"There's even an Obama Club in the Netherlands," he says, "the first Obama club in the world, the largest," where members get together for serious discussions of foreign policy issues, diversity, and multi-lateralism — all key points of Obama's presidency.

Monday begins the Nuclear Security Summit, where delegations from 53 countries will discuss how to secure nuclear materials and prevent their use by terrorists. Obama has called for a meeting of the G7 members during the Netherlands visit to discuss a united approach to Russia's annexation of the Crimea. He will also meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, before moving on to Amsterdam and a visit to NATO headquarters.

He will then head to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis. And he'll end his trip in Saudi Arabia, where he will be discussing the Syrian crisis.

Obama will get at least a touch of tourism while in the Netherlands. He plans to visit Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum for a look at Rembrandt van Rijn's newly illuminated and exhibited masterpiece, "The Night Watch." And Willem Post hopes he will have time to drop in on the Obama club to greet his fans. 

Comments