Observers of President Barack Obama’s rhetoric against Russia this week may have heard undertones of a pivot back to Europe. But despite aggression from President Vladimir Putin and pressure from some NATO partners and U.S. politicians to intervene, Obama is staying the course: reassuring allies of American commitment while pushing them to do more, and a more agile, efficient use of the U.S. military in the region.
A nuanced foreign policy approach is typically a tough sell, and it’s all the more difficult in the current political climate. Obama faces a war-weary American public and a Congress both concerned about projections of weakness and tightening defense budgets that ballooned after more than a decade of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“If, in such a moment, you ever ask again ‘Who will come to help?’ you’ll know the answer—the NATO Alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America…You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again,” Obama told European allies Wednesday in a speech in Estonia ahead of last week’s NATO summit in Wales.
While Obama used the NATO summit to reassure Eastern European allies he is prepared to counter Russian aggression, he also made sure not to lure them into a false sense of security that the U.S. is going to do it for them.
“Even as we keep our countries strong at home, we need to keep our alliance strong for the future…So this week’s summit is the moment for every NATO nation to step up and commit to meeting its responsibilities to our alliance.”