WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will find his diplomatic clout tested at twin summits on his own turf beginning today. The big global problems are the economic mess in Europe and finding scarce money to boost a postwar Afghanistan — and in both cases the solutions lie mostly overseas.
But by offering solidarity with Europe and reminders that he is steering the Afghan war to a close, Obama will be promoting his re-election interests as well as national ones.
Summit locations rotate around the globe, and Obama has ended up with a bounty of them — first an Asia-Pacific gathering in his birthplace of Hawaii in November and now both the G-8 economic summit at the presidential retreat in Maryland and a NATO security conference in Chicago, his hometown and re-election headquarters.
For four days, Obama will host global meetings on his stages, though the most pressing problems reflect how much is out of his hands.
For voters, Obama will keep the focus on the economy. For the watching world, he will embrace the trans-Atlantic alliance as a cornerstone of U.S. policy.
Europe's debt crisis poses huge potential to drag down the American economy and Obama's bid for a second term. The financial worries will dominate discussions at the Camp David summit of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations today and Saturday, with Obama expected mainly to listen and prod Europe toward more growth and less budget-slashing austerity.
On Afghanistan, Obama has telegraphed the message for Chicago, one which also fits his we're-getting-out-of-war election theme.
NATO will get more specific about putting Afghanistan in the lead of the combat mission in 2013 in advance of the end of the war itself by the end of 2014.