Europeans tend to believe that a potential Barack Obama presidency will greatly contribute to improving transatlantic relations, after the stormy ride of the Bush era. Though Europe expects improvements under a McCain presidency as well, the Obama factor is considerably more powerful in generating goodwill on the continent, as evidenced by recent polls on transatlantic perceptions. It may come as a surprise, then, that at least on the issue of Iran, one of America’s closest allies in Europe is not so fond of Obama.
If reports are accurate, French President Nicholas Sarkozy views Obama’s current position on Iran as “utterly immature.” Not only that: France would view an Obama attempt to open talks with Iran as “arrogant” and “unilateral”–much the same language hurled at the current White House tenant in earlier years.
This is not to say that Sarkozy is right. It is just to point out that the main factor in choosing the next president of the United States should not be the desire to mend fences with disgruntled Europeans. After all, electing the President is about choosing the most powerful man in the world, not the most popular. And I suspect that, whatever the choice of the American people, and whatever the wisdom of Sarkozy’s judgment, the coming policy challenges will only further test transatlantic relations, Obama or not.