Multilateralism will be the buzz word of the incoming Obama administration, but Europe must commit more to combating terrorism to make it work, a US congress delegation to Europe said in Berlin on Wednesday, Dec. 3.
The US looks likely to ask more of Germany and Europe in the fight against terrorism
The delegation, which is currently touring Europe to assure the continent of the new administration's willingness to improve trans-Atlantic relations, also warned against expecting too much too soon of the Obama administration.
"Multilateralism is in vogue. Thoughtful and respectful dialogue in listening will be, I think, one of the characteristics of American foreign policy under the Obama administration," said visiting Democrat congressman Bill Delahunt, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations and Human Rights.
But Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher said multilateralism would only work if European states were prepared to shoulder more responsibility once the going got tough.
He said multilateralism would be proven "in the far-off mountains and deserts of Afghanistan."
"Either the Germans and the rest of our European friends will be totally engaged and carry their burden … and not be worried that their soldiers are going to have to die just like anybody else's soldiers die when there is military operation, or they won't.
Europeans are hopeful Obama will take a big step away from Bush-era policies
"If the Germans, or our European friends, cannot bear the cost of defeating radical Islam, which is today the threat to western civilization, then multilateralism won't work."
With many Europeans eager to see Washington step away from some of the policies of the outgoing Bush administration, Delahunt warned against expecting too much from the Obama administration in its early days.
He said the US faced domestic problems that would initially cripple the ability of Obama's team to push ahead with the trans-Atlantic agenda.
"The gap between those expectation and the realistic possibilities is significant," he said.
"Currently, the economic meltdown is preoccupying Washington. We have profound domestic challenges. The capacity and ability of the administration to respond with alacrity is going to be curtailed substantially."
One such expectation Europeans share is that Obama would take significant steps to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
When he spoke before 200,000 people in Berlin this summer, Obama drew the biggest applause when he outlined his vision of global nuclear disarmament.
Elizabeth Turpin from the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank warned however, that the road to a nuclear weapons-free world would be long and arduous.
Barack Obama envisages a nuclear weapon-free world
"The campaign rhetoric is very clear about maintaining a strong deterrent until that point in time where the world is free of nuclear weapons," she said.
"Obviously there is a tension between those two commitments that's not always easy to navigate and figure out what the balance is in terms of strong deterrents … and what (they are) comprised of, vis-à-vis the long-road, and emphasis on long, to eventual nuclear disarmament."