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Obama's right to skip U.S.-EU summit

“Obama disses Europe.” That, more or less, is how Europeans have described the American president’s decision not to attend the annual U.S.-EU summit, which had been scheduled for May. Some use more polite language -- the president is variously said to be “skipping“ the summit or “bowing out“ of the summit -- but the most common verb deployed is “snubbed," as in this emotional Daily Telegraph headline: “Barack Obama snubs EU summit.”

Following this announcement, the summit was canceled.

Which is just as well: The president is absolutely right to ignore what would certainly have been another boring meeting, accompanied by excellent food and inconsequential conversation. I write here as a paid-up Europhile, but also as a Europhile who is thoroughly fed up with Europe’s inability to come up with a united front in its dealings with Russia, a common energy policy, and a more forthright commitment to Afghanistan -- or anywhere else.

More to the point, I am fed up with the endless procedural debates. For a decade, Europe’s leaders wrangled over a constitution -- now called the Lisbon Treaty -- that was supposed to give the continent a clearer voice in international affairs. But when it finally came down to selecting a president and a foreign minister of Europe, the Europeans punted. They chose two perfectly nice, perfectly bland, and completely unknown politicians, neither of whom has yet said or done anything of any consequence. In other words, the real leaders of Europe -- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France -- don’t want the continent to have a foreign policy at all. But if they don’t want to speak in unison, then why should the American president pretend to listen? He can get a lot more done by calling up Merkel, Sarkozy or Britain’s prime minister for the occasional off-the-record chat.

It didn’t have to be this way: A year ago, at the start of this administration, Europeans had a chance to make a real impression in Washington. All doors were open, all ears were listening, any European coalition that had wanted to help solve one or more of the world’s security issues would have been granted carte blanche.

Nothing happened, no such coalition emerged, and the window of opportunity closed. The president now has his mind on other things. His failure to turn up isn’t a “snub,” it’s a thoroughly rational decision.

By Anne Applebaum  | February 3, 2010; 7:28 PM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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Anne Applebaum's column would make sense if President Obama's perceived snub to Europe had been a deliberate act.

Unfortunately, it appears to have been an accident of administrative incompetence.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | February 3, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse


From the perspective of someone for whom commenting is not the norm, apologizing ahead of time for any faulty reasoning therefore requesting understanding.
From this point of view, there are no real or perceived ill intentions toward the President of these great United States, the European Union, or the Washington Post, itself.
Please try to understand the limited exposure to all things political by the words here written, as such by a member of the peasantry.
We the People scan information quickly, and make quick judgments based on the quick scanning of information regardless of whether or not perceived correctly.
Most of us out here, you know, the People do have limited knowledge about all things political.
Taking simple perception as a way of analyzing the decisions made by individuals and by individuals with limited intelligence and knowledge, skipping an important meeting does not look very good.
From the viewpoint of a peasant, we see someone who does not seem to have a problem taking the time in order to collect a large sum of money, and awards, but then seemingly not capable of finding the time to attend a large and important meeting with a valuable partner.
If the goal were to have a United Europe as our perpetual friend and ally, then it would seem that any meeting with all members present would go a long way toward accomplishing that particular goal.
Disappointment generated by negative perceptions is very damaging to the well-being of individuals, and it remains in memory for a very long time. People do think sometimes.
Like the moon, you know. Hope Denied.
It adds up.

Posted by: pl1123 | February 3, 2010 9:38 PM | Report abuse

I have lived in Europe for many years and am in particular a Francophile. I think President Obama is in many respects naive and inexperienced on the world stage. But in this respect, whether accidental or on purpose he is right.

Europe is moribund. They could not protect themselves from Sierra Leone. They whine and complain..they do nothing except dine in expensive restaurants. They have troops in Afghanistan? Hah...under what rules of engagement? Is there unity of command there? Sure long as you consult 25 different heads of state who have to huddle with parliaments and come to compromise agreements.

So you say..."You're not fair?" Well what about Kosovo. How come the Americans had to come to the rescue of poor little Europe for the 4th time in 80 years, this time savaged by barbaric Serb hoards??? They couldn't protect European ideals from the Serbs!!! AND HOW COME WE'RE STILL. THERE 13 YEARS LATER!! They still can't do it!!

Europe,... a classic example of what socialism..and letting a wet-nurse do your heavy lifting for 70 years...can do to a fine, manly race. Whimps is a nice word for them.

President Obama..they might hit you with their designer purses if you don't go. Oh heck..make another trip to say, Nouakchatt..or better yet, stay home and administer the country for once.

Posted by: wjc1va | February 3, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

If Obama wants the Europeans to be his canon fodder in Afghanistan, he'd have much better luck getting help from them, if he didn't give them the middle finger.

In fact, almost the whole world thinks Obama is giving them the middle finger. Concerning foreign affairs, we have never had such a naive dunce in charge.

Posted by: alance | February 3, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

There is not enough difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Because, I live in very blue voting district, for the first time in my life I had the luxury of "voting my conscience," instead of voting for "the lesser of two evils." I voted for the Green Party candidate, not because I thought she would make a great president, but because I really agree with the Green Party agenda, and I wanted to send a message to the Democrats. I agree that Obama was a better choice than McCain, but only by a small margin. Both Democrats and Republicans have been ripping off the taxpayers, since way before I was born. The thing that worried me about Obama right from the beginning was his warlike and hawkish attitudes. We need to stop giving money to the military, and Obama never talked about that. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom:

Posted by: scottdavene | February 3, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Too many white suprimacists in europe

Posted by: MumboJumboo | February 3, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Because the Europeans won't act like America and be belligerent enough toward Russia or invade Afghanistan, they're worthy of dismissal?

Yes, if only Nicolas Sarkozy could be President of Europe, or perhaps Jean Marie le Pen, that would be worth showing up at a meeting for, is that it?

"Boring" is far more preferable than insane.

Posted by: Billy_Pilgrim | February 4, 2010 5:58 AM | Report abuse

I could right Anne Applebaum's column:

"Obama's right to ______________( fill in the blank)"

Posted by: tspafford | February 4, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

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