STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Two foreign trips by President Obama underline America's effort to adjust to a changing world. This week the president visited rising economic powers - India, Indonesia, South Korea. Next week, the president visits some old allies in Europe, which may be drawing back some of their power. Here's NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro.�

ARI SHAPIRO: As President Obama travels from one rising Asian democracy to another this week, the same forward-looking words keep showing up in his speeches.�Growth. Arrival.�Emergence.

In Jakarta, the president described his childhood home of Indonesia as a nexus of 21st century challenges and opportunities ranging from climate change to religious diversity to economic development.��

President BARACK OBAMA: Indonesia's going to have a seat at the table, and its leadership is going to be absolutely critical.

SHAPIRO: One day earlier, the president was at the heart of another quickly growing Asian democracy.�In New Delhi, Mr. Obama said he believes India should have a seat on the U.N. Security Council.�

President OBAMA: In just decades, you have achieved progress and development that took other nations centuries.

SHAPIRO: Those nations that took centuries to develop in old Europe will be the focus of President Obama's next foreign trip just a week from now, when he visits Portugal for a two day NATO summit.�

Mr. Obama will pivot from a booming continent of emerging democracies trying to find their place in the world to a decades-old alliance of established democracies trying to stay relevant.

Mr. ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary-General): NATO has to continue to transform to remain effective.

SHAPIRO: This is NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in a speech last month about the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.�At the meeting in Lisbon next week, NATO member countries will agree to a new strategic concept. It's effectively a new mission statement.

The last one was written in 1999.�And, as Rasmussen said, a lot has changed.�Armies are no longer threatening to invade Europe.�Terrorists and computer hackers are.

Mr. RASMUSSEN: There are fewer military threats to our territory but more challenges to our security from every direction, including cyberspace.

Mr. STEVE CLEMONS (New America Foundation): I think there's a little bit of an old river of foreign policy problems meeting the new river of foreign policy challenges. And they're coming together and it's a bit chaotic.

SHAPIRO: Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation says you can see the new and old rivers converge in an area like the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. NATO has thousands of troops in Afghanistan. India shares a border with Pakistan. The U.S. must have a foot in both worlds, says Clemons.

Mr. CLEMONS: And working with these emerging powers and going to where the growth is is a better way to reinvent America as the Google of countries rather than just being the General Motors of countries.

SHAPIRO: And it's not just a matter of national security, says former Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy DeLeon of the Center for American Progress.��

Mr. RUDY DeLEON (Center for American Progress): We used to look at issues in sort of stovepipes - national security, economic, human rights. And what we now know is that all of these issues are interconnected and that you really can't solve one type of problem in any one location or with any one country.

SHAPIRO: For example, NATO countries such as Great Britain are cutting their defense budgets because of the bad economy. Great Britain might bounce back by selling more goods and services to fast-growing Asian countries.�So national security and economics, Europe and Asia, old world and new, are actually bound tightly together. President Obama's travel this month reflects that.�

Mr. BEN RHODES (White House Spokesman): We've had a theory since we came to office that we need to broaden the circle of countries that we're partnering with.

SHAPIRO: White House spokesman Ben Rhodes spoke aboard Air Force One as the President flew from Indonesia to South Korea.�

Mr. RHODES: I think that they provide a bookend in many ways - this trip and the NATO summit - to our view of foreign policy, which is that we still need to strengthen and cultivate our core alliances, but we need to build out from those alliances.

SHAPIRO: But Richard Fontaine of the Center for New American Security believes this is just the state of reality no matter who is running the U.S. Fontaine was a foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain.�

Mr. RICHARD FONTAINE (Center for New American Security): Any American president, I think, would be pulled more in the direction of the dynamic political, economic and military blocs that they have in Asia.

SHAPIRO: A President in 2010 cannot afford to ignore old allies or new ones, he says.�As the last year has shown, economic decisions made in Greece can be as critical to American well-being as currency decisions in China or actions by the Federal Reserve here in the U.S.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.