What should Obama's next steps be?


Author: Orhan Sattarov, head of the European office of VK


Experts of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) talk about the problems and challenges facing the U.S. president after his re-election.


 Barack Obama won a landslide victory in the recent U.S. presidential election, receiving thus the mandate for another term in office. Thus, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by Republicans, will again oppose him. This factor, together with the economic problems, significantly limits the field of activity of the new government. "Obama's victory does not give him the right to forget how deep the political split in the U.S. is”, the German expert Dr. Joseph Braml said. In 2011, during the debate on the state budget, it became clear that not only economic problems but also the inability of politicians to reach a compromise led America aground. In turn, Dr. Claudia Shmuker believes that the consequences of political failure on the "fiscal cliff" can be so dramatic that now, facing a gloomy outlook, the political players will be forced to come to terms.


Meanwhile, many of the intentions of the American president might turn into a failure in this period of his presidency, given the dominance of Republicans in Congress, German experts say. Joseph Braml, however, notes another fact: there is no factional discipline in the United States. It is therefore possible that ordinary Republicans will support several initiatives of the incumbent president, despite the official line of their own party. However, there is another side to the coin: Barack Obama can ot rely one hundred percent on the support of his allies in the democratic camp. Thus, according to Braml, the situation in Congress will continue to be extremely volatile and unpredictable for both Democrats and Republicans.


According to the experts of DGAP, the next four years the U.S. will strengthen trade links within Trans-Pacific Partnership, drawing to it a number of American and Asian countries. As for U.S. foreign policy and security policy, here the German experts expressed similar assessment: because of major economic and social problems in the country, Americans will more and more "load" their allies. The U.S. will continue to be present in the Middle East, given the objective energy interests. The U.S. policy in support of Israel will not change, the experts believe. However, American foreign policy has gradually taken a strategic bias towards Asia, as the U.S. is seriously concerned about the growing role of China. As the President of DGAP Professor Eberhardt Sandschneider said, the Americans themselves put China into the role of opponent". Barack Obama needs to find a reasonable course of action in relation to Beijing. Until now, he has not been able to do it.


The relationship between the U.S. and Europe became a special unit in the expert discussions. German analysts here do not feel much optimism: in the coming years, the world will witness the monetary and political struggle between the Americans and the Europeans - or rather, between the dollar and the euro. The outcome of this struggle depends on who will be better to finance his debts. Moreover, Washington will continue to put pressure on Europe, forcing the partners to buy government bonds and share debt services.


Simultaneously, the U.S. will require that Europeans take on more military and financial burden for tactical and strategic objectives in the region and beyond. It is indisputable that such a perspective cannot please Germany, an economic powerhouse of the European Union. Perhaps that is why the President of DGAP finished discussion on a minor note: "American Democrats may now have something to celebrate. But we do not have any reasons for it".



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