Obama's NATO Summit Viewed As Success

Obama at NATO in Lisbon

President Obama takes seat at meeting of leaders of NATO member nations and Russia on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010. Armando Franca/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Armando Franca/AP Photo

After monumental failures in the mid-term elections or in getting a trade deal with South Korea in Seoul, President Obama finally had some much needed wins at the NATO summit in Lisbon.

Obama can take credit for an agreement on Afghanistan in which the NATO allies agreed that the Afghan security forces would shift to that nation's control in 2014, meaning the NATO countries will likely have elements of their militaries their that long or longer.

NATO also agreed to a new strategic concept, its first since 1999. It calls for the security organization to build up capabilities to defend against and respond to new threats like ballistic missiles and cybersecurity.

Obama also continued what is by most accounts a strong relationship with Dmitry Medvedev. That was underscored by an agreement between NATO and Russia to cooperate on missile defense.

"All in all, I think the president deserves praise for a very successful summit," said Gary Schmitt, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, on C-SPAN's Washington Journal program Monday.

What's more, the leaders of the NATO nations appeared to want to make the security organization's mutual defense pact operate on a personal, micro level.

They came to Obama's aid in his effort to get Republican senators to agree to the New START treaty between the U.S. and Russia.

As the New York Times' Jackie Calmes and Peter Baker reported:

Mr. Obama was able to lead on a world stage in a way that he has not been able to do lately at home. He did so with public and private assistance from his European and Russian counterparts, many of whom called the summit meeting historic. Acutely aware of his problems at home after the drubbing Democrats took in the midterm elections — most manifest in Senate Republicans’ resistance to the New Start nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia — the other leaders seemed almost to go out of their way to buoy Mr. Obama.

Their help was not merely volunteered; administration officials actively sought it. “Throughout the summit, there was intense lobbying by the administration to win support for the ratification process,” said the Czech defense minister, Alexandr Vondra...

... In the end, then, the more common diplomatic dynamic was flipped: Instead of foreign leaders taking advantage of a weakened counterpart, they rallied to his aid — for their own interests as much as Mr. Obama’s, given the economic and military stakes.

In particular, they gave Mr. Obama ammunition in his Senate battle for the New Start treaty. He collected a series of supportive statements from European leaders — from Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to leaders of former Soviet bloc nations, who remain deeply suspicious of Russia and wary of Mr. Obama’s “reset” policy for warmer relations with Russia.

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