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Obama Finds Support, Criticism on Europe Visit

  • Al Pessin

U.S. President Barack Obama spent the week in Europe, grappling with a variety of issues, and finding varying degrees of support from European allies.

The weather was not the only thing that was a bit stormy during President Obama’s visit.

He received an enthusiastic welcome in Poland, one of many former Soviet satellites that is concerned about Russia’s moves to re-establish at least part of its old sphere of influence - exemplified by its actions in Ukraine.

And that country’s new president-elect thanked Obama for his support and expressed interest in closer relations.

But while the United States remains close to its traditional allies in Western Europe, these countries are also secure enough to be more critical of U.S. policies and plans.

The multiple European viewpoints are a function of history, geography and local politics, according to Raoul Ruparel, at the Open Europe research organization.

“You know, these divisions have been engrained for some time," he said. "And I think that we’re now looking at the stage where the U.S. is trying to find the best way to manage them.”

Here in London, one newspaper reflected the varying views of President Obama’s policies. On Wednesday the Times said the president’s billion-dollar plan to improve military readiness in Europe is part of a new Cold War. The next day, it said Obama’s major foreign policy speech last week signaled a new American isolationism.

Meanwhile, the Guardian highlighted differences between the president and various European leaders over wire-tapping, trade and other issues.

Still, as Obama met with key allies at a Group of Seven session in Brussels - without Russia because of its annexation of Crimea - agreement was expected on top issues like Syria, Iran, Ukraine and the economy.

But on other questions, including future relations with Russia and who will pay for improved defenses, differences will remain.

The leaders will meet again Friday in Northern France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be there. The event will serve as a reminder of shared western values and goals, as well as real differences on today’s issues.
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