Obama's Europe visit: redefined ties and a touch of 'political Beatlemania'
European leaders warmed to President Obama's emphasis on pragmatism and mutual values. Playing ping-pong and visiting Moneygall, Ireland, didn't hurt his popular image, either.
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Xenia Dormandy, who served in the US government and now works for Chatham House, a British think tank, says the visit highlighted a marked change in tone. "Obama talks about mutual values and how they should guide our policy. The language of 'interests' has gone," she says. "The idea of supporting rather than leading change is a hugely different theme for the US."Skip to next paragraph
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Obama stressed these mutual values as he reaffirmed the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain. In the past, Obama has been criticized for being the least Anglophile of all US presidents. So the extent to which he affirmed the "special relationship," calling it not just special but "essential," was a striking feature of the visit.
It suggests a maturing of the relationship, says Stephanie Carvin, a lecturer in international relations at Royal Holloway, University of London. " 'Special' is an emotional word, but 'essential' makes the relationship sound practical," she says. "In the past there's been this worry that Obama is more interested in the Pacific, but I think this indicates that we don't have to be concerned about that anymore."
And if the British continue to fret about the state of this relationship, they should take heart from the knowledge that a strong bond between the two countries is important to the US, too, because "it's one less area of the world that the US has to worry about," says Ms. Carvin.
Beyond the rhetoric, Obama and Mr. Cameron announced there would be increased cooperation between the two nations in six key areas, including security, education, and cyberspace.
"There's a lot of work being done to bring the two countries closer strategically," says Ms. Dormandy. "This visit sets a new bar for the bilateral relationship away from the semantics, away from the superficiality of the idea of a special relationship, and away from the doubts over whether Obama likes Europe anymore. This takes it to a new level."
Legendary rapport with queen
And this time around, Obama seemed more genuinely engaged with Britain than before. Some of that is about personal relationships, of course. His rapport with the queen is fast gaining legendary status, and there was considerable camaraderie on display between Obama and Cameron, not least as they flipped burgers at a barbecue in honor of wounded military service personnel.
At the state banquet at Buckingham Palace, Obama also spoke of his gratitude for the support Britain had shown the US in the past. Such solidarity would be just as important in the future, he told Parliament the following day.
"Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership," he said, "our alliance will remain indispensable to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more just."
And despite the new sensitive approach to foreign affairs, he insisted that the US and Britain together had a key role to play in the world. "As millions are still denied their basic human rights, we are the nations most willing to stand up for the values of tolerance and self-determination that lead to peace and dignity."
IN PICTURES: Obama visits Britain