Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Obama-led US would protect eastern Europe

If elected president of the US, senator Barack Obama would not trade eastern European security for Russian help on Iran, his senior foreign policy advisor, Gregory B. Craig, told EUobserver in an interview. Any notion that the US tried to sabotage the Lisbon treaty is "silly," he added.

Mr Obama would be a "much more pro-European president" than his Republican predecessor if elected on 4 November, said Mr Craig - a lawyer who led former president Bill Clinton's defence against impeachment and also worked as foreign policy advisor to former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

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  • Barack Obama will be a more "pro-European" president if elected, his advisor says (Photo: barackobama.com)

The US and Europe will have to co-operate with Russia in areas where they have "common objectives and common ground," especially on non-proliferation - reduction of the global nuclear arsenal, security of nuclear materials and challenges such as North Korea and Iran - senator Obama's foreign policy man explained.

"[But] that doesn't mean that you trade away our security commitments to the new members of NATO, that's not even thinkable. I always remember the notion that the expansion of NATO was not a threat to Russia, that this was a decision not by NATO to move east, but a decision by the new democracies from the former Soviet space to integrate with the West."

"The notion that you choose to co-operate with Russia vis-a-vis Iran at the expense of central and eastern Europe, I just don't accept that. That's not viable and it won't happen that way," Mr Craig said.

Russia's aggressive stance toward neighbours who want to be part of NATO and the EU is a historical throwback, he added. "I think the notion that Russia has a veto over what they decide inside of Ukraine or Georgia is very 19th to 20th century. In a 21st century world, with global impacts, global trends, Russia suffered enormously economically as a result of its intervention in Georgia."

The Obama advisor underlined that new members of NATO are protected by a "solemn security commitment," while NATO aspirant states can look to the United Nations charter that "requires nation states to respect the sovereignty of other nation states."

"Although a country like Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Russia does not have under international law the right to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine. Even if there is no security obligation, the people of Europe and US will be supportive of the freedom and independence of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions, to choose democracy and affiliate themselves with Western institutions if they want to."

Mr Craig said that senator Obama would also stick to plans to build parts of the US global missile shield in Poland and the Czech republic, despite fierce Russian criticism. The new Democratic president would "not turn his back on that agreement" as it is a "solemn commitment" signed by Washington, Prague and Warsaw.

"The timing, pace and scope of the implementation of that agreement is going to be a matter left to the discretion of the president of the United States," he added, however.

US military facilities in Romania and Bulgaria - also disliked by Moscow - are not up for discussion either, Mr Craig said. "Democracies from the former Soviet space have every right to make their own decisions," he explained, calling the notion of a Russian veto a "relic of the Soviet past."

Obama good for EU-US ties

The Obama camp believes America-bashing is decreasing in the EU in a trend that would be accelerated by a Democratic victory in November.

The European Parliament president's recent call for full transparency into alleged funding of the Irish No-campaign against the Lisbon treaty is a freak event resulting from the parliament's own upcoming elections in 2009, Mr Craig said.

"Every election has its silly season ... this speculation or rumour that the CIA would support the No vote in Ireland is preposterous."

"It seems to me that the European Union has some problems with its public relations, not just in Ireland, but also elsewhere where the [EU] constitution has been defeated. That should not, in my view, deter the Europeans from continuing on the course of consolidating its institutions, the rule of law, economic trading agreements and greater co-operation. This has been the policy of many, many US presidents and it will be the policy of president Obama to support that."

Asked why senator Obama didn't stop in Brussels during his European tour in July - which included Berlin, Paris and London - his advisor said it was just a question of "limited time."

"We couldn't include every capital that we wanted to visit. We regretted not being able to go to Brussels for many reasons - because it's the European Union, it's NATO, it's a capital in itself of importance. And there is no doubt that at some point early in his administration, if elected, senator Obama would visit Brussels."

No \"League of Democracies\"

Senator Obama also disagrees with Republican candidate John McCain's idea of creating "League of Democracies", a new global institution excluding Russia and China designed to escape the perceived deadlock of the United Nations Security Council, Mr Craig said.

"We would not want to exclude governments and nations from where their participation is required to solve problems. Creating another organisation that draws a line between 'us' and 'them' is not productive in solving the great challenges that face the world's democracies today," he explained.

"As flawed as it is, [the UN] is still the place people go to solve their problems. Not only about war and peace, but also about poverty and development, disease and the future of the planet. Creating yet another institution called the League of Democracies won't get us where we want to go," Mr Craig said.

Obama offers European missile trade off to Russia

US President Barack Obama sent a secret letter to his Russian counterpart three weeks ago, offering to back off from deploying a controversial missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic in return for Moscow's support against the Iranian nuclear program.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

Catalonia celebrates national day ahead of trial verdicts

Catalonia celebrated on Wednesday its national day - while awaiting the trial verdict on 12 Catalan separatists, former politicians of Carles Puigdemont's government. That decision is expected for early October.

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