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Obama Tells Berlin That U.S., Europe Must Stand Together

  • RFE/RL

Obama met earlier in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Obama met earlier in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama capped a daylong visit to Germany with an address before an estimated 150,000 people in Berlin, where he promoted international cooperation to meet a host of global challenges.

In one of the highest-profile appearances of a tour aimed at boosting his foreign policy credentials among U.S. voters and on the international scene, the senator from Illinois stressed the value of the U.S.-European friendship and the need for both sides to reassess positions that have divided them in recent years.

Among the most specific challenges came when Obama urged Europeans to contribute more generously to the NATO effort in Afghanistan, which was his first stop on this tour and where he has pressed for an increase in U.S. troops.

"The Afghan people need our troops and your troops, our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation," Obama said. "We have too much at stake to turn back now."

Obama also called on Europeans to join Americans in supporting Iraqis, whose U.S.-backed government is struggling to "step up" sufficiently to allow significant cuts in U.S. and international troop levels there.

More broadly, Obama said Europeans must join Americans to fight terrorists and the extremism behind it, and stand with ordinary Muslims who reject the ideology of Al-Qaeda and like-minded militant groups.

Obama also said it is in the interest of Europeans and Americans to fight global climate change, and to tear down walls that divide societies and religions.

Mindful of the Berlin addresses of Kennedy and Reagan, Obama said he came to speak merely as a citizen. Yet it was clear that he spoke also as a candidate for that office determined to establish himself as knowledgeable and at ease in dealing with foreign affairs.

In addition to Afghanistan, Obama has visited Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian West Bank. On each stop, he met with top-level political leaders. In Afghanistan and Iraq, he also consulted with U.S. military commanders.

The U.S. presidential contender acknowledged that his country and Europe have had their differences many times in the past. Obama said he himself has at times disagreed with his country's leadership. He also reminded the audience that some in the United States take a dim view of certain European policies.

But Obama said such differences are outweighed by common trans-Atlantic aspirations.

"In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common," Obama said. "In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth -- that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world and that just as American bases, built in the last century, still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe."

Obama also focused attention on the sometimes rocky relations between the West and Russia, saying it's time to set aside what he called a "Cold War mind-set" about Moscow. Work with the Russians when you can, he said, but stand up for Western values when you must.

On a related subject, Obama said the two sides of the Cold War must redouble efforts to secure and reduce their nuclear arsenals, and to work harder to stop the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, especially in the Middle East.

"This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East," Obama said. "My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions."

Throughout his speech, Obama reminded Berliners of the efforts made 60 years ago by the United States in the Berlin airlift to feed and protect the people of West Berlin as they were surrounded by communist forces.

The U.S. presidential candidate said a similar challenge faces the United States and Europe today.

"People of Berlin and people of the world, the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But, I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom," Obama said. "We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our heart, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again."
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