Does Obama have a point or is he completely missing the whole issue? Give us your thoughts below.
Even as Mr. Obama has tried to focus United States foreign policy more on Asia and China’s rising power, administration aides say they have watched with concern as European unity has come under increased strain at a time of increased Russian aggression, slow economic growth, a virulent terrorism threat, and a huge influx of migrants from the Middle East and beyond.
In meeting in Germany on Sunday with Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Monday with Ms. Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, Mr. Obama intends to press his European counterparts on a number of issues, aides said.
They include a new trans-Atlantic trade pact, the need for better intelligence sharing within Europe about the terrorism threat, holding firm against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and trying to find a solution to the civil war in Syria.
He is scheduled to give a speech Monday in Germany taking stock of Europe’s challenges.
“This speech allows him to step back at a time when the United States and Europe, together, are dealing with a range of challenges, from counter-ISIL and the threat of terrorism, to the current refugee crisis,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser.
Mr. Rhodes said part of the president’s address would focus on trade, including efforts by Europe and the United States “to combat the headwinds in the global economy and promote sustainable growth.”
In an interview published in a German newspaper on the eve of his visit there, Mr. Obama said it was “not my place to tell Europe how to manage Europe.” But he said it benefited the United States to have a “strong, united, democratic Europe.” And he said the “serious challenges” facing Europe must be confronted boldly.
“The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels were not only strikes on two of the world’s great cities, they were assaults on the values of openness and diversity that we cherish on both sides of the Atlantic,” Mr. Obama said in the German paper, Bild Zeitung. “We’ve learned through painful experience that threats to Europe ultimately become threats to the United States.”
His message was similar in tone to the one he delivered Friday in London, where he bluntly urged British voters to reject a proposal to leave the European Union. He said that Britain was stronger inside the bloc and that a united Europe was in the interests of the United States.
European unity “is under strain,” Mr. Obama said Friday as he stood by Mr. Cameron at a news conference and offered full-throated support for the prime minister’s campaign to keep Britain in the European Union.
At the same news conference, Mr. Obama asserted that “the ties that bind Europe together are ultimately much stronger than the forces that are trying to pull them apart.” But administration aides say they share the fears among European officials in Brussels that a British vote to quit the European Union could pull a vital brick out of an already shaky structure.
“We’ve seen some divisions and difficulties between the southern and the northern parts of Europe,” Mr. Obama said Friday, referring to the euro crisis and migration. “That’s created some strains.”
But there are further tensions between Eastern and Western members of the European Union and NATO, too, over how to manage a more assertive, revanchist Russia, which has torn up the post-Cold War order in Ukraine and is trying to undermine confidence in NATO’s principle of collective defense.
The economy of the European Union has been much slower to recover from the crash in 2008, making the challenge of mass migration from the Middle East and North Africa harder to handle. The confusion and popular fear that matters are not under control have undermined public confidence in Ms. Merkel and in other European leaders, while promoting populism, Islamophobia and ultranationalism among a growing minority of voters.