President Obama's first strut across the world stage is not over. As The World's Gerry Hadden reports, tomorrow the American president attends a NATO summit where he is expected to get an earful about how the 60-year-old organization should move forward regarding Russia and Afghanistan.
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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH in Boston. Today leaders of the world's major economies issued a series of measures aimed at turning around the global financial crisis. President Barack Obama paid tribute to the spirit of unity at the G20 summit in London. Here's a little of what he had to say.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This kind of coordination really is historic. I said in the meeting that if you had imagined 10 years ago or 20 years ago or 30 years ago that you'd have the leaders of Germany, France, China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa -- a President of the United States named Obama -- former adversaries, in some cases former mortal enemies, negotiating this swiftly on behalf of fixing the global economy, you would have said that's crazy. And yet it was happening, and it happened with relatively little, relatively few hiccups.
MULLINS: That, again, President Obama after the end of the G20 summit meeting in London. Mr. Obama is not going to have a lot of time to catch his breath. He's heading to Germany and France for a NATO summit tomorrow. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization marks its 60th anniversary this weekend. But it's not a time for celebration. NATO is divided over how to deal with Afghanistan, and its expansion is also in doubt as the U.S. reaches out to a more assertive Russia. The Word's Gerry Hadden has the story.
GERRY HADDEN: President Obama has made the war in Afghanistan his top foreign policy priority. But his NATO allies are not following suit. On the eve of the NATO summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France would limit its involvement to training local police. Regarding military reinforcements, he said, France has done its duty, we won't send any more reinforcements. France's reluctance to send soldiers is shared by most of Europe. That's frustrating Mr. Obama who would like NATO to send thousands more troops and personnel. The President will likely use the NATO summit to try to change their minds. But on his first European visit as president, Mr. Obama is not just focusing on Europe. The U.S. is hoping Russia will help the war effort in Afghanistan by opening supply lines for NATO forces. Mr. Obama used the occasion of the G20 meeting to begin rebuilding ties with Russia. Yesterday he spoke with Russian President Dimitri Medvedev in their first face to face meeting, and they agreed to resume U.S.-Russian talks on reducing nuclear arsenals. The Afghanistan question will come later says Russia expert Derrick Everre with the Center for Eastern European Studies in Birmingham, England. Everre says the Russians could be a key ally in fighting the Taliban.
DERRICK EVERRE: Because, you know, they have some experience of the problems of Afghanistan and there is a definite concern over jihadist Islamic terrorism.
HADDEN: But he adds Russia won't help without getting something in return.
EVERRE: If the Americans are prepared to talk to the Russians on some of the other political problems like missile defenses, like NATO enlargement, I think you could quite easily find a more constructive Medvedev administration.
HADDEN: Everre is referring to U.S. plans for an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. President Bush proposed the idea, saying it would protect against potential future attacks from countries like Iran. But Russia viewed it as a direct threat. Abandoning the missile defense as well as NATO's expansion to former soviet bloc countries such as Ukraine and Georgia would please Russia. But the Czechs and Poles have been counting on the initiatives to bolster their NATO presence and as a bulwark against Russia itself. With Presidents Obama and Medvedev pressing the so-called reboot button on relations, U.S. diplomats are seeking to calm Eastern European nerves. Craig Conway is Deputy Political Councilor at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw. He told Polish Television last week that missile defense isn't dead, yet.
CRAIG CONWAY: What the Obama administration has decided is that they need to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether or not the missile defense system is technologically feasible and whether it's cost effective.
HADDEN: The Polish fear is that such studies will mean a slow death for missile defense, and a decline in the country's strategic importance. Remember, only a few years ago the Bush administration was courting the region, calling it 'the new Europe' and lauding countries such as Poland for supporting the Iraq War. But Mr. Bush is gone, Russia has grown more assertive, and the U.S. needs help where it can get it in the war in Afghanistan. For The World I'm Gerry Hadden.