Obama warns Europe of the dangers of withdrawing from the world in a challenging age – Los Angeles Times

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President Obama challenged European nations on Monday to resist the forces that would divide their increasingly fragile union, calling their cooperation with one another and the U.S. essential to combating a new wave of economic and security trials.

Speaking in Germany on the final day of a three-nation international trip, Obama revived a theme he first expounded on when he visited  this country as a candidate eight years ago and  spoke of a more collaborative approach to the world’s challenges that would rely on strong European partners. His vision has helped navigate the global economic collapse, forge an international climate agreement and launch a diplomatic approach toward curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Obama said.

“None of those things could have happened if I, if the United States, did not have a partnership with a strong and united Europe,” he argued.

But in the wake of the recent attacks on European capitals by Islamic State, the continued instability of the Middle East that resulted in a refugee crisis that has hit Europe hardest and continued economic insecurity for many, Obama acknowledged a tendency “to withdraw” that was increasingly common on both sides of the Atlantic. Such detachment could only offer “false comfort,” Obama warned.

“This is a defining moment. And what happens on this continent has consequences for people around the globe,” Obama said. “If a unified, peaceful, liberal, pluralistic, free-market Europe begins to doubt itself, begins to question the progress that’s been made over the last several decades, then we can’t expect the progress that is just now taking hold in many places around the world will continue.”

Obama’s attempt to buck up his international allies underscores the degree to which his foreign policy orthodoxy has been tested near the end of his presidency.

In his  speech in Berlin eight years ago, he held up the city’s 20th century history as a case study for the virtue of multilateral action that he intended to pursue as president.

“People of the world, look at Berlin,” he said, “where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too  great for a world that stands as one.”

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In that speech he made two goals on which he can claim progress: working to ensure Iran abandoned its nuclear ambitions and to “come together to save this planet.”

But a review of the speech eight years later also points to his shortcomings. He summoned the world to commit anew to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda and rebuild Afghanistan, fight religious extremism and expand trade, challenges that still remain.

Aides said that in writing the Hanover address, they intended to draw a direct line from his 2008 speech to today, arguing that the nature of current challenges only further call for a multilateral approach.

“The fact of the matter is it’s a dangerous world, and so there are always going to be challenges,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters, mentioning terrorism, migration and Russia’s continued disruptive behavior. “But the approaches that worked in the last seven years are the approaches that need to be applied to those issues.”

Obama warns Europe of the dangers of withdrawing from the world in a challenging age – Los Angeles Times