Obama faces major foreign-policy tests as the world watches
Foreign leaders will look for American leadership and effectiveness at a full schedule of events this week. On Tuesday, Obama will attend UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's meeting on global warming.
President Obama enters the most intense foreign-policy week of his presidency – three days at the United Nations in New York, followed by the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh – with a widely pro-Obama world wondering if he can move from compelling words to action.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Obama, who wowed foreign audiences as a young, charismatic candidate reminiscent of John F. Kennedy, extended the world's love affair with him into his presidency through a series of speeches – in Prague, Czech Republic; Moscow; Cairo; and Accra Ghana. He spoke of a newly cooperative America while offering vision on such global issues as nuclear proliferation, disarmament, Middle East peace, and development.
Administration officials crowed that those speeches advanced America's image in the world to levels it had not enjoyed in decades.
But the world is looking for American effectiveness and leadership beyond nicely delivered words, foreign-policy analysts say. So this first visit to the UN and then a summit on the global financial crisis will be a test of Obama's ability to get things done.
"The president needs to convert his widespread popularity in much of the world into effectiveness in much of the world," says Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "The challenge for President Obama is to create an environment where the US is not only seen as having an attractive leader, but the US is seen as setting an agenda which the world is willingly following."
Over the next week, the president won't lack for issues on which to show his leadership and to press for action. Included on his agenda:
•Climate change. Obama will attend UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's high-level meeting on global warming Tuesday, with an eye to pushing toward a global accord at an international conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.
•Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.