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Europe's cautious response to Obama

Gavin Hewitt | 13:11 UK time, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

US President Barack Obama, in his West Point speech, threw down a challenge to Europe. He made it clear this was "not just America's war". He said this was not simply a test of Nato's credibility. What was at stake, Mr Obama said, was "the common security of the world". He was confident of "substantial increases in the contributions" of America's allies.

Despite knowing what Mr Obama would ask, Europe has played for time. The Germans said they would not decide about boosting troop levels until after an international conference next month.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was flattering about Mr Obama's speech, which he said was "courageous", but there was no mention of extra forces. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said: "For the moment there's no need for increasing the number of troops."

The Belgians said they would only look at what was possible "when the request was made in concrete terms".

The Italians will send more troops but have not been specific. Poland is considering sending a few hundred more.

Nato said it was expecting some pledges right away, and more at a later stage.

Over the next few days, the US will deploy its diplomatic muscle to get at least 5,000 extra troops out of Europe.

If, however, those pledges are not forthcoming it will damage Washington's relationship with some of its European allies. For the Obama administration this is one moment when the credibility of its European partners is on the line.


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