New To Old: Obama Travels Signal Foreign Policy Shift President Obama is taking back-to-back foreign trips that represent a pivot from new foreign policy challenges to old ones. He is currently on a 10-day tour of developing democracies in Asia. Next week, he attends a NATO summit in Portugal, where the challenge is reinvention and relevance.
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New To Old: Obama Travels Signal Foreign Policy Shift

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New To Old: Obama Travels Signal Foreign Policy Shift

New To Old: Obama Travels Signal Foreign Policy Shift

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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: 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.

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.

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

SHAPIRO: 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.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: NATO has to continue to transform to remain effective.

SHAPIRO: 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.

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

STEVE CLEMONS: 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.

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.

RUDY D: 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.

BEN RHODES: 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.

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.

RICHARD FONTAINE: 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: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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