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The world reacts to an Obama presidency

Sunday, November 9, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Loory: Tens of millions of Americans are basking in the glory of making history by electing a charismatic young African-American as the country's 44th president. That feeling has spread around the world. President-elect Obama now must prepare himself to handle practical problems: two wars in the Muslim world, the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran, North Korea and elsewhere, the worldwide economic blowup and restoring relations with Russia and Western Europe. Obama has said he wants to withdraw fighting troops from Iraq and put them in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and find Osama bin Laden. What are the chances that he can be successful in that?

Nahal Toosi, correspondent, The Associated Press, Islamabad, Pakistan: Obama will take into account what General Petraeus and others tell him. The Afghanistan and Pakistan border region is becoming the central front, effectively, of the War on Terror. Militants are going back to those areas. Whether he will call up more people or take them from Iraq and move them over, I'm not sure.

Loory: Members of the Pakistani government have congratulated Obama, but they have also pointed out they want attacks on Pakistan by American forces stopped. Can this be done easily?

Toosi: The prime minister of Pakistan stressed that U.S. missile strikes on Pakistani territory undermine attempts to win hearts and minds. They inflame anti-American sentiment and promote more sympathy for the militants who live in the border regions. General Petraeus has said strikes have killed three top extremist leaders in recent months; he wouldn't identify which ones. The U.S. feels there is a reason to keep this up, despite what the Pakistani government has been saying for months. Some speculate there is a secret deal where Pakistan criticizes publicly, but privately they are winking at the Americans who keep sending the missiles.

Loory: Will Germany continue to support the U.S. through NATO in Afghanistan?

Bertram Eisenhauer, political editor, Frankfurter , Frankfurt, Germany: The Social Democratic leader in German Parliament said he expected an appeal from Obama for Germans to engage more in Afghanistan and Africa. He said the answer will likely be "no." Germany has hesitation to do more militarily than what is already occurring.

Loory: What is the outlook for relations with Russia?

Matthew Chance, senior international correspondent for CNN in Moscow: Russians favored Obama over John McCain, but the Kremlin will pursue their geopolitical aims regardless of who is in the White House. Hours after Obama won, President Dmitry Medvedev made his first State of the Nation address to a Russian audience. Medvedev lambasted the U.S. for causing the global financial crisis and for its part in the war in Georgia. There are also concerns over continued plans to deploy missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. Expectations of a honeymoon period are misplaced.

Loory: What is expected of Obama in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela? Can he quickly improve relations with Hugo Chavez and others in Latin America?

Frank Daniel, Reuters correspondent, Caracas, Venezuela: In general, Obama is welcomed in Latin America. People see George Bush's foreign policy as bullying and arrogant. The old U.S. dominance in the region is gone, and it's not coming back. In Venezuela, relations will warm initially. Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassador in September; then America followed suit. Diplomatic ties will likely be restored after Obama takes office. Fundamentally, Chavez bases much of his politics on opposition to U.S. dominance and actively supports Russia's bid to increase its influence in Latin America.

Loory: During the campaign, Obama was criticized by McCain for being unprepared to handle international affairs. How will he work on these problems?

Bob Deans, national correspondent, Cox Newspapers, Washington, D.C.: Expectations are high, not only here but around the world. But, Obama's hands are tied with particularly difficult domestic challenges, nine and a half million people unemployed, a trillion dollar deficit from day one and a $10.5 trillion debt. Our economic situation cannot be separated anymore from our global situation. The global financial crisis is inextricably tied to the American economy. Obama will receive advice right off the bat from his commanders on Iraq and Afghanistan; but there is also a strategic assessment team, comprised of Pentagon, State Department and many other people, who will deliver advice in February. Also, there are already agreements to try to get American troops out of Iraqi cities by June.

Loory: Will Colin Powell have any role in the Obama government?

Deans: Powell said his endorsement of Obama was strictly a personal decision made without any conversations with Obama. There is no evidence to suggest it is in the works, but that doesn't mean it isn't.

Loory: Is Western Europe going to be happy with Obama's foreign policy?

Eisenhauer: Clearly there will be some policy disagreements. For instance, Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping his own foreign policy course of stronger engagement in Afghanistan and toughness with Iran will be strengthened with Obama behind him. This was a tough sell for the French with Bush in the White House. The French and British axis will become more important for future strategic partnership. The Germans are much more skeptical at this point.

Loory: Is the Russian government hoping for any role in dealing with the world financial crisis?

Chance: Yes, Russia is one of the biggest oil producers and has been hugely affected by the decline in oil prices. Other commodities also depend on oil prices as well. Russia will want to work with the international community, U.S. included, to reverse the situation.

Loory: There will be a summit meeting in Washington of the leaders of the industrial nations to deal with the financial crisis in a few weeks. What is the thought about Obama getting involved in that?

Deans: He was invited. Among Washington old-timers, attending would not be a good idea. You don't want your first appearance on the international stage to be seen as the junior partner to a senior president, particularly one seen so negatively. The counter argument is that this is an opportunity to get engaged and not wait until January 20.

Loory: Is the transition work going to take place mostly in Chicago or Washington?

Deans: The transition will be focused out of Washington. John Podesta, President Clinton's chief of staff and head of the Center for American Progress, has been formally named to head up that transition. The center is a Washington think tank with many former Clinton people, so a lot of contacts are already in place. They have about 70 days before January 20 and a lot of work to do.

Loory: Could Obama improve relations with Latin America, particularly with Brazil?

Daniel: Brazil is a major trading partner of the U.S. and might be worried about protectionism. Obama favors taxing Brazilian ethanol. In Colombia, Obama has expressed concerns (that) the bilateral free trade agreement is weak on labor grounds and violence against labor leaders. Colombia has been widely supported by the Bush administration with Plan Colombia, the biggest (U.S.) military operation in the world outside the Middle East. Obama may not be so keen on supporting military operations against Colombia's guerrillas. Mexico and Central America are hopeful that some kind of immigration reform will finally be passed.

Loory: How strong are Obama's international ambitions?

Deans: Very strong. Obama is not a foreign policy neophyte coming into office. He served four years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obama is not the kind of person who showed up with questions written on index cards by his staff.

Loory: Barack Obama is a historic figure to be sure. But he is also the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, and how he operates in that role will determine how he is really judged in history.

Producers of Global Journalist are Missouri School of Journalism graduate students Jared Gassen, Chris Hamby, Sananda Sahoo and Hui Wang. The transcriber is Pat Kelley.

 

 


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