Eurozone crisis: White House holds its breath

US President Barack Obama gives a speech in Colorado Springs, Colorado 23 May 2012 A shock from Europe could have an impact on the way the US presidential election plays out

US President Barack Obama has at least some sympathy with the eurozone leaders who find it so difficult coming up with a concrete plan that they can sell to their individual parliaments.

He said, at the end of the Nato meeting in Chicago: "I think about my one Congress, then I start thinking about 17 congresses and I start getting a little bit of a headache."

But I would not be surprised if the 17 nations at the heart of the 18th European crisis meeting end in a 19th nervous breakdown in the White House.

Bringing this crisis to a head really matters to Mr Obama. It could make the difference between "four more years" and "out of a job".

Worldwide panic

In the Justus Lipsius, the Brussels buildings that hosts the European Union summits, you can hear many languages and accents. This time a transatlantic twang may be among them.

Mr Obama may not be coming up with any cash, but his team are on hand.

"We've offered to be there for consultation to provide any technical assistance and work through some of these ideas in terms of how we can stabilise the markets there."

He really does not need this crisis turning into - well, whatever happens to a crisis when it goes beyond critical.

This really matters to Mr Obama. The upcoming election is going to be tougher than many think. National opinion polls have him just about neck and neck with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, but they are worse for Mr Obama in the states that matter.

A shock from Europe could do him in.

You could argue that even a chaotic Greek exit from the eurozone leading to a further plunge in the European economy would not feed through to America's high streets in time for November. I am not sure that is right.

It is true that any injury to the billions of dollars worth of exports to the EU would take a while to hurt. It is true that US banks are not horribly exposed.

But when markets panic, they panic worldwide and retired Americans use investment plans far more than people in other countries - these might be at risk.

An even bigger danger is that the limited amount of credit available, already harming the US recovery in many eyes, would simply dry up.

Divided by language

The real risk may be much simpler. Crisis begets crisis. Former President Franklin D Roosevelt may have been spot on when he declared: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But markets driven by fear are never pretty.

Mr Obama must be pacing the Oval Office carpet in frustration. Time and time again he has delivered the same message. Time and time again, nothing happens.

French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Nato summit, Chicago Illinois 21 May 2012 Francois Hollande has backed common European bonds, something Germany opposes

He said it again in Chicago: "Acting forcefully rather than in small, bite-sized pieces and increments, I think, ends up being a better approach."

Americans worry that once again that they are divided from their friends across the Atlantic by a common language (although not in this case from the Brits).

They both talk of "austerity" and "stimulus" but they do not quite mean the same thing.

But above all Americans think the Europeans do not get the markets. The Washington view is that European politicians do not think their main job is to calm the markets. They regard them with distain as peripheral to the real structural crisis and rather hysterical.

The Americans do not necessarily think the markets are rational or admirable, but they do think they are real and important players. Calming them down is regarded as the first step on the road back to "normal".

They are more concerned with dealing with what they regard as the real world than making a moral point.

They point out that those who dealt with the crisis in America had long experience of the markets and knew what made them tick. European politicians do not have this background, and probably look askance at anyone who does.

Everyone is holding their breath until the next Greek election. The president of the US may be the most powerful man in the world but he seems fairly powerless in the face of the eurostorm.

Mark Mardell, North America editor Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    "Sounds like normal diplomacy to avoid becoming involved in such a dispute."
    Are you suggesting that USA wasn't a part of the problem or isn't still a 'main' part of it? What about the vetos & the silence about all Israeli agressions &war crimes?
    The American role in this 'dispute' since it's started has been a total shame. The USA doesn't even seem willing to let it be solved

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Sukiyaki (163),

    "... Neo Con Republican Bilderbergers Business Murderers"

    Not that you know what a "neo con" is, or how it os different from a conservative, other than an attempt by someone to denigrate another.

    This in contrast to the very real EU Sovereign Debt crisis (see article above)


  • Comment number 165.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Sukiyaki (150),

    “... Why doesn't USA attack Israel if Israel attacks Iran ...”
    Why should it? How does it benefit the U.S.? Just answer the question: Why should the U.S. attack Israel if Israel attacks Iran?

    “... "2 Sovereign Nations" Sounds like US Buck passing once again ...”
    Sounds like normal diplomacy to avoid becoming involved in such a dispute. What do you recomend instead?

  • Comment number 163.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    148.Entropic man

    "Though legal tender, many people in England refuse to accept them..."

    Refusing legal tender is 100% illegal. I think you'll find they're not actually legal tender.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    While I agree that USA is not the first country in human history to seek dominance by eliminating all possible threats or rivals by agression or other means, it doesn't mean that USA is better than other 'empires' in the eyes of the rest of the world.
    - While the USA is politically & finanically involved, I don't think the solution to the Eurozone crisis is in American hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Sukiyaki (157),

    "... It's thick minded to argue, people were always killing, other people do it, its HISTORY to conquer each other ..."

    It is also accurate to point that out, as I also point out that you and Amr ignore wars throughout recorded history, and focus on only the data that supports your conclusion.

    I hope President Obama can help the EU avoid failure!

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Sukiyaki (157),

    "155. It's like talking to someone in a bad relationship ..."

    I couldn't agree with you more!

    Rather like President Obama's ignored advice to the EU. He has (sorta) succeeded, while EU teeters on the brink of failure! (see article above).

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Amr (156),

    In your opinion, which country took part in or started wars more than any other country during the past 60 years? ..."

    Now, Amr, if you are going to cherry-pick your data to support the conclusion you have already adopted, you can do better than that! Here, try this; change "during the past 60 years" to "since the U.S. did so". That'll guarentee success!


  • Comment number 157.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    In your opinion, which country took part in or started wars more than any other country during the past 60 years?
    "Anyone else see danger in putting all of Europe in the hands of one person?"
    I think power ends up in one person's hands eventually (or a group, that probably have one leader too, that share the same ideology & interests)

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Sukiyaki (152),

    "Just keep your damn wars from the rest of the world living in peace ..."

    Iraq invasion of Kuwait, Iran / Iraq War: Iraq invasion of Iran, Korean War: N. Korean Invasion of S. Korea, WWII: German invasion of Poland, WWI: Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia, Franco / Prussian war, wars between South American nations, wars between African tribes ...

    Suuuure it does!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    20 years of Corrupted US Wars for Oil in Middle East and you brush it off

    US people are not deep they are shallow

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Sukiyaki (150),

    "... 20 Year History ..."

    Yes, I daresay that 20 years is about the depth of your historical awareness.


  • Comment number 152.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Sukiyaki (147),

    “... ipads and iphones for all chinese workers
    else boycott apple products for running slavery ...”

    More financial and legal foolishness!

    LOL! Keep 'em coming

  • Comment number 150.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Sukiyaki (147),

    "... 144 Chryses
    US Wars are most the common like muck"

    History is not your strong suit, I see. Still, at least THIS time the crisis wracking Europe, has not (yet) brought them into armed conflict, and has (so far) remained a political and financial embarrassment.

    LOL! Keep 'em coming!

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    #145 Phffft

    Alas, I was serious. The money in my pocket or bank account only has value if you are willing to accept it in exchange for goods or services.
    For example. the banks in Northern Ireland print their own Sterling notes. These are routinely accepted in Ulster.
    Though legal tender, many people in England refuse to accept them, making those notes effectively worthless there.


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