No free ride for Europe, says top Barack Obama aide
By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 5:58PM BST 19/07/2008
Europe will be challenged by a President Barack Obama to contribute more to global security and will no longer have the "easy out" of pandering to anti-Bush sentiment, according to a top adviser to the Democratic candidate. AP
Former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice listens to Barack Obama answer a question at a foreign policy forum in Des Moines, Iowa
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph on the eve of Mr Obama's week-long trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe, Susan Rice emphasised that the election of Mr Obama would mark a decision by Americans to "turn the page" on President George W Bush.
But the former Rhodes Scholar, who took her Master's degree and doctorate in international relations at New College, Oxford, made clear that an Obama administration would also challenge Europe to do more after a Democratic victory in November's election.
"It would signal a return to the more pragmatic and bi-partisan traditions of American foreign policy, which have been lost to ideology in the Bush years," she said. "He will not proceed through an ideological frame and seek to impose that frame on every challenge.
"There is some truth to the notion that some of the animus at the popular level towards the Bush administration may have made it easier for some of our European partners to avoid taking steps that we may want them to take and that perhaps they ought to take," she said.
"That has, in some respects, perhaps on some issues, given them an easy out. Barack Obama will lead from a position of strength and seek progress, and he will want to work with Europe in very strong partnership.
"It means we in the United States will have to do our part; but Europe will have to do its part too. There can be no free riders if this is going to be an effective partnership."
The Obama campaign has highlighted Afghanistan as a prime example, arguing that Europe should send more troops there and lift restrictions on how they can be used.
On Tuesday, Mr Obama argued for a major sift in American policy away from the "single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq" towards a broader approach to the world and vowed to send more troops to Afghanistan.
"Among the issues we will want to focus on together are a strong and effective approach to Iran and to the larger non-proliferation challenge, a robust effort to tackle climate change, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the situation is deteriorating and where we in the US as well as Nato need to do more," said Miss Rice.
She added: "And so Obama will ask more of ourselves and ask more of our closest allies."
Mr Obama is committed to withdrawing American troops from Iraq at a rate of one to two brigades a month. "Obama will maintain a residual US presence, but not permanent bases, to carry out specific missions.
She described these as "protecting our embassy, civilians and humanitarian workers; conducting counter-terrorism operations against remaining al-Qaeda elements; and continuing to train Iraqi police and security forces, if the Iraqis are making progress towards political reconciliation".
One of Mr Obama's toughest tasks would be to rebuild American relations with the world, she conceded.
"What happened in the Bush years, particularly in the early Bush years, was a precipitous drop off in European attitudes towards the United States and towards President Bush in particular.
"The polls for a number of years indicated that the frustration or the disillusion was directed primarily at President Bush. But over time, the United States and Bush came to be conflated in international popular opinion, not entirely but increasingly ... it doesn't serve American interests, and it needs to be repaired."
Miss Rice, 43, who is married with two children, was an Assistant Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton after a meteoric rise to the higher reaches of American policymaking.
Along with Tony Lake, Mr Clinton's first National Security Adviser - the key figure at the right hand of the president who co-ordinates foreign policy - Miss Rice leads a team of some 300 foreign policy advisers.
A tough, plain-speaking adviser who nevertheless has a hearty laugh and a direct, informal manner, Miss Rice is widely seen as being in line to become Mr Obama's National Security Adviser - the same role that Condoleezza Rice, now US Secretary of State, was given by George W. Bush in 2001.
But Miss Rice shrugs off the inevitable comparisons with the "other Dr Rice" - who is no relation - and won't be drawn on what position she might assume in an Obama administration.
"I have no idea who will be President Obama's National Security Adviser," she said. "I wouldn't begin to presume that.
"I wouldn't take the analogy [with Condoleezza Rice] particularly far. I respect Secretary Rice. We have a few things in common - we're African American women working in the field of national security named Rice that both have great affection for and ties to Stanford University, but beyond that I think the parallels are few."
Mr Obama is due to arrive in London on Friday night before meeting Gordon Brown at Downing Street and David Cameron, the Conservative party leader, on Saturday as well as meeting American supporters.
The centrepiece of his trip to Europe will be a major speech in Berlin, where he will arrive after stops in Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. He will then meet President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris before flying to London, where he will be for less than 24 hours.
But Miss Rice batted away the concerns of some British diplomats that the focus on Germany and the fact that Britain was not Mr Obama's first stop might signal a watering down of what Winston Churchill first described as the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States.
She still valued Churchill's term, she said. "As far back as any of us can remember, the US and Britain have cooperated hand in hand to meet some of the most significant and dangerous security challenges we face.
"Americans look to Britain as a special partner, a special ally of historical and cultural significance as well as very practical everyday significance."