Last Ditch Effort: Obama Looks To Shore Up European Alliances

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Merkel & Obama
Photo Credit: 
By The White House Official White House Photo by Pete Souza (P062510PS-0290 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom was perhaps the first warning shot of the rising populist sentiments across the West. Analysts were stunned, polls were proven wrong, and world geopolitical stability took a serious hit. Then came Donald Trump, and his shocking victory over career politician Hillary Clinton.

With anti-globalisation sentiments rising across the West, long-standing alliances and relationships are coming under fire. Perhaps none of these is more important than the alliance between the European Union and the United States of America.

Now, with just weeks left in office, President Barack Obama is conducting one last tour through Europe. What was once expected to be more of a farewell tour and curtain bow on the world stage, has instead became an essential effort to shore up fraying relationships.

Perhaps the highest stakes meeting are the current talks between Angela Merkel and President Obama. Merkel is one of only a few internationally-liberal politicians still enjoying considerable support at home and political clout abroad. Yet Merkel too has been coming under pressure in recent weeks.

Obama and Merkel also published a co-authored opinion piece entitled “The Future of trans-Atlantic Relations”, which was published in the German news magazine Wirtschaftswoche. In the article, the two leaders acknowledged that European and American relations are at a crossroads and also admitted that globalization itself needed to be reshaped.

Obama and Merkel also cited the many common goals shared between Germany, Europe, and the United States. Fighting the Islamic State, maintaining the strength of NATO, and dealing with global issues, like the ongoing refugee crisis, and numerous other issues can be common grounds for future cooperation.

Germany May Have To Take Lead In Standing Up To Russia

The elephant in the room, or more in Eastern Europe, is big, ornery, and obvious: Russia. Donald Trump has so far proven to be quite receptive and warm towards Russia and Vladimir Putin. Trump has even hinted that the two countries could move quickly to restore relations, which have been frayed by the on-going conflict in Ukraine, and the buildup of Russian troops on its western borders.

With American support potentially waning, the European Union may be forced to burden more of the responsibility. Given the current lack of strength and political unity within the EU itself, this means that Germany may be forced to rally Europe and lead the way in challenging Russian aggression.

Earlier in November, the American military did send a huge shipment of ammunition to NATO forces across Europe. This shipment marked the largest such shipment in over twenty years. Still, while ammunition stores may have been repleted, the threat from Russia remains real and present.

Add in the United Kingdom’s slow drift away from continental Europe, and the need for strong, new leaders to move into the forefront only becomes all the more obvious. For now, the next likely leader appears to be Germany, but Merkel’s approval ratings have been slipping in the wake of Islamic terrorist attacks and issues with the million plus illegal migrants now staked out in Germany.

If Germany were to falter, who would be left? The risk of a collapsing European Union cannot be ruled out.

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