Poetry and prose on Obama's Europe trip
- 22 May 2011
- From the section US & Canada
President Obama's trip to Europe will be a melange of pageantry and policy, and the political equivalent of both poetry and prose.
It is quite a trip. Ireland, Britain, France and Poland, taking in leaders of Africa and Russia as well, although he won't actually be going to either that continent or that country. He will, ever so gently, and without the help of cheesy visual aids that Hillary Clinton once employed press the reset button on relations with Europe.
First to Ireland for the fun bit, with a healthy dose of electioneering. Don't forget the date. Next year is 2012, the year of a presidential election and the US has 40 million people who claim Irish ancestry. So the president will drink a pint of Guinness in Moneygall and honour his ancestor, Joseph Kearney.
Then off to London to see the Queen. It's a state visit so expect lots of trumpets and glorious uniforms. The president and the first lady are staying in Buckingham Palace.
The centrepiece of the whole tour will be a speech in Westminster Hall. There will be lots of warm words about the special relationship. The White House took a bruising learning in how obsessed the British press (although I suspect not politicians or the public) are about taking the temperature of that relationship.
But it is true that President Obama didn't care for Gordon Brown, and doesn't have an instinctive, ancestral love for the UK that is common among Wasps (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) on the Eastern seaboard.
He seemed to take both Britain and the rest of Europe for granted, missing one of those interminable EU/US get-togethers.
All that is changing. He seems to get on with David Cameron, says the Queen is "wonderful and warm" and his policy makers are making a fresh start with Europe as a whole.
They say that Europe is no longer the object of policy, it is the partner in policy towards the rest of the world, the catalyst for change in the world. Their fear is that Europe and the UK, after defence cuts, may not have the resources to play the part they want.
In practical terms Afghanistan will be very high on the agenda, as will Libya, followed by the Middle East peace process or lack of it.
All this will also be the subject of discussions at the G8 in France. There he will meet President Medvedev of Russia. Leaders from Egypt and Tunisia will be there to talk about a big fear in Washington and the European capitals. That is as the Arab spring turns to the heat of the Arab summer, those angry young men are still angry about the lack of jobs and opportunity.
There will then be a meeting with nine leaders from African countries - Algeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and South Africa.
Finally Poland. There are many Polish Americans too, so the president will have one eye on domestic politics. But like the UK and France, Poland has military punch above its weight and is an important ally. I'll be following the president on the first leg of his visit, so you read plenty more here in the coming week.