Europe gets Silent Treatment During Debate

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Marco Werman: Let's now unpack the Europe issue. There was one mention of Europe last night by President Obama. Here it is:

Barack Obama: And Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger. In Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat.

Werman: That was it, besides that and the standard dig about ending up like Greece, Europe was absent from the 90 minute discussion. Willem Post is with the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in the Hague. He happens to be in Boston this week, so he joins us in the studio. I mean it's pretty extraordinary in modern times we have this Europe being used as almost a slur, like it's a problem child in discussion, especially during this presidential campaign. Did you get that sense as you watched the debate last night?

Willem Post: Well, I was surprised and it was a bit shocking. You know, that's stupid. As Europeans we understand there are hot spots in Asia, in northern Africa, the Arab world, but if you talk for 90 minutes about foreign policy and well, Europe is almost not mentioned and we are strong allies…we share the same values, the same basic core interests, and let's be honest, we work together with the US concerning sanctions against Iran, for instance. So where were we?

Werman: Well no doubt that the European economy has been a major story with global proportions for the last couple of years, tell us what you were hoping to hear from Obama and Romney last night on Europe.

Post: Yeah, what I really hoped was that let's do it together. And it's crystal clear that there is some Europe blaming. It's now the euro crisis, that's the reason for all the economic problems now here in the western world and the US, but well, it all started here in the United States with the banking crisis—the mortgages, the housing markets.

Werman: Going back to 2008 and the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Post: Definitely, that was in Sept. 2008, and we understand that this is an interconnected world, so it's natural to be partners.

Werman: So connect those dots for us, Willem. I mean remind us why for Americans and the US economy Europe is critical right now.

Post: If you take all those countries together we are quite a market. For instance, my country, The Netherlands, we are the third investor here in the United States and we have huge interests from this side of the Atlantic to the other side for trade reasons. Okay, it's interesting, have your trade with China, but Europe is also a very important economic block.

Werman: And there's NATO as well, you know, being the force that is currently in Afghanistan and with US troops, and with the force with which Gaddafi and Libya was removed from power, I mean that's another side of Europe for which the US needs to maintain presumably for the next four years.

Post: Look at us, look at the success apart from the terrible tragedy in Benghazi, of course, but look what happened in Libya. We took a responsibility just like Italy and France and well, the president called it leading from behind; the US was still very influential of course. But if you look at it altogether and look at the sanctions against Syria, that's definitely not only an American affair, Europeans are also involved. Look at discussions concerning North Korea or Israel and the Palestinian Authority; the Europeans are involved. So, we were disappointed that we were not mentioned as strong allies and working together with the United States.

Werman: Willem Post with the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in the Hague, thanks for coming in today.

Post: Thank you.