Politics


US: Obama on image-boosting trip to Europe




New York, 18 July (AKI) - US presidential candidate Barack Obama is making his first high-profile trip to Europe and the Middle East in a bid to boost his international credentials, according to leading academics.

The Democratic candidate will be meeting leaders in Britain, Germany and France and is planning stops in Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Polls have shown that he is behind [his rival Republican candidate John McCain] when it comes to foreign policy and national security issues," Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University told Adnkronos International.

"He has to show that he can handle the diplomatic challenges of the next presidency."

This is particularly important for ties between the United States and Europe that have suffered as a result of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Obama is incredibly popular in Europe. A May poll of more than 6,000 Europeans for the London's Daily Telegraph showed that Obama was preferred to McCain by significant margins in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.

However American voters still doubt his international expertise.

Some hope that he will use the trip to rebuild the transatlantic alliance that was so central during the Cold War.

"Europe is particularly important to the United States," said Michael Doyle, professor of international affairs, law and political science at New York's prestigious Columbia University in an interview with AKI.

"The big question for all is how he will be the new voice and new vision for the United States," he said.

Doyle said that while Obama will probably receive a warm welcome from the region as a whole, his visit has a symbolic importance to Europe's minorities.

"There are very few senior leaders with his ethnic and racial background in Europe," said Doyle.

Obama's father was a Kenyan and his mother is from US state of Kansas. As a child he studied in Indonesia and he grew up in Hawaii.

"For minorities in Europe it is quite unusual to see a senior political leader with his background - a man with African heritage who may be the next president."

Reports say that Obama's trip is expected to receive unparalleled media attention with all the three major US television networks sending their news anchors overseas to cover his trip.

But experts warn such a high profile trip also has its risks.

"Wherever Obama goes, there's a frenzy about him that John McCain is not getting," said Zelizer.

"So much coverage can also lead to bad coverage."

The risks are high even if Obama manages to attract large crowds to his speeches in the European capitals.

Being loved by Europeans can instead become a political handicap for Obama back home in the US.

"An enthusaistic gathering could ironically work against him," said Doyle.

"McCain and the Republicans may then try to paint him as the European candidate," he said.


 

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