Europe's Obama Thrill Turns to Disappointment

Charm, it seems, can only get you so far. Despite Europe’s initial wild reception of Barack Obama, the anti-Bush, and the bestowing upon him of the most prestigious of Euro-lib awards, the Europeans still seem to expect action from a sitting U.S. president.

Understandably, the Czech Republic and Poland were among the first to be disenchanted with the “new direction” in America when Obama decided to scrap the missile defense shield that George W. Bush had promised them. In Poland, President Lech Kaczynski expressed concern that Poland is now left in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the former Soviet sphere, while ex-Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was dismayed because the U.S. is “not interested in this territory as they were before. … It’s bad news for the Czech Republic.”

Then we had French President Nicolas Sarkozy deriding Obama’s “no nukes” dream as “naive,” saying, “We live in a real world, not a virtual world. The real world expects us to make decisions.” And it’s been said that Sarkozy thinks Obama is “incredibly naive and grossly egotistical.” When the French begin criticizing your ego, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate.

Who can forget the snub the UK received? One of Obama’s first acts as president was to return the bust of Winston Churchill that was on extended loan to the White House from the British government’s art collection. It was sent to George W. Bush shortly after 9/11 and had a place of honor in the Oval Office. Obama further thumbed his nose at the Brits when he canceled a joint press conference in the Rose Garden when UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to town in March -- because of snow. For well over a century, there has been a special relationship between the U.S. and the UK, but it seems that’s gone the way of the Churchill bust. But as Toby Harnden of the UK Telegraph noted at the time, “Mr. Brown might lament that despite the so-called ‘special relationship’ Britain is now getting the same treatment as the president of Uruguay but he need not despair. I’m told there’s a chance he might get drinks with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening.”