Europeans seem united on one point: They have focused on the limited nature of Obama's policy change, citing the continued plans for short-range missile defense. Some see the reversal on long-range defense as a temporary adjustment rather than a final verdict. What all this means for Obama and Europe, however, is a point of contention. Here are some responses from France and Germany, where public feelings about the missile shield have always been mixed.
- From France, Four Things to Remember Jean-Dominique Merchet, blogger for French newspaper Libération wrote that Obama's decision "required at least four remarks." First, he wrote, "the anti-missile defense continues. That which is abandoned is but a brick of the vast program of National Missile Defense, which remains." Second, this is a gesture towards Moscow. Third, it is also a gesture of "détente" toward Iran. Fourth, it most certainly snubs Eastern Europe, an area likely to be further piqued by "[Obama's] expected absence at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall."
- Cause for Reflection in Central Europe, wrote Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The countries that drew criticism from their neighbors for agreeing to host missile-defense bases "will consider carefully" whether they want to align themselves "so closely on a controversial matter with America" in the future "And the fundamental question remains: does Obama really think the Iranian nuclear program a threat? Or may we count on an about-face here as well?"
- It's About Iran, Not Europe, proclaimed Christoph von Marschall in the German paper Die Zeit. "Obama is evaluating U.S. interests very level-headedly." But the Central European countries won't find that reassuring, he added.
A side effect of the shift: the disappointment over America will lead Poland and the Czech Republic again closer to Western Europe. The split in the EU from the Bush years will reverse itself, at least a little.
- Great Move, Here's How Germany Can Help Paul-Anton Krüger of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung thought Obama's decision showed "courage, risk-readiness, and resolve." He said the abandoned program had been "the greatest encumbrance" for U.S.-Russian relations and "had also alienated many allies in Western Europe." But "Obama will find his move to a new, cooperative foreign policy difficult to achieve if Europe doesn't support him, united." This is where Germany can help, he said, by stepping in and using its "good relationship with the Kremlin" to make sure Poland and the Czech Republic feel secure.