Obama warns against ‘crude’ na­tion­al­ism

The Myanmar Times - - World -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is­sued a warn­ing against “crude” na­tion­al­ism as he kicked off his last for­eign tour with al­lied na­tions on edge af­ter Don­ald Trump’s shock elec­tion win.

Speak­ing in Greece, Mr Obama called the NATO al­liance “ab­so­lutely vital” to US in­ter­ests and stressed a strong, uni­fied Europe was good for Amer­ica, in com­ments di­rected at na­tions jit­tery over Mr Trump’s com­ments about transat­lantic ties.

Af­ter a year of pop­ulist shocks, from Bri­tain’s vote to leave the EU to Mr Trump’s sur­prise win last week and the rise of anti-mi­grant move­ments in Europe, Mr Obama cau­tioned against suc­cumb­ing to di­vi­sive in­stincts.

“We are go­ing to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of na­tion­al­ism or eth­nic iden­tity or trib­al­ism that is built around an ‘us’ and a ‘them’,” Mr Obama said in Athens.

“We know what hap­pens when Euro­peans start di­vid­ing them­selves up ... the 20th cen­tury was a blood­bath,” he said, adding that the United States was also painfully aware of the dan­gers of “[di­vid­ing] our­selves along lines of race or re­li­gion or eth­nic­ity”.

Euro­pean gov­ern­ments, es­pe­cially eastern coun­tries close to Rus­sia’s or­bit, have been shaken af­ter Mr Trump ap­peared to call into ques­tion Wash­ing­ton’s nearly 70-year se­cu­rity guar­an­tee by say­ing he would only help NATO al­lies if they paid their way.

Mr Obama stressed that the transAt­lantic re­la­tion­ship was the “cor­ner­stone of our mu­tual se­cu­rity as well as pros­per­ity” and that was the case re­gard­less of who was sit­ting in the Oval Of­fice.

The US pres­i­dent met Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras for talks and praised Greece for show­ing “ex­tra­or­di­nary com­pas­sion” to hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple ar­riv­ing in Europe’s mi­grant cri­sis.

More than 800,000 mi­grants passed through Greece in 2015, and the cri­sis-hit coun­try has strug­gled to ac­com­mo­date some 60,000 left stranded on its ter­ri­tory when Balkan states fur­ther north closed their bor­ders ear­lier this year.

Greek lead­ers are anx­ious for a new US pledge to help al­le­vi­ate the coun­try’s enor­mous pub­lic debt, a mea­sure ac­tively sought by the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund but op­posed by lead­ing Euro­pean lender Ger­many.

“In my mes­sage to the rest of Europe I will con­tinue to em­pha­sise our view that aus­ter­ity alone can­not de­liver pros­per­ity,” Mr Obama told the Greek prime min­is­ter.

Af­ter Europe, Mr Obama con­cludes his trip with a stop in Peru for a sum­mit of the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion forum (APEC) where he is ex­pected to meet Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. –

Photo: AFP

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama (sec­ond left) ar­rives for a state din­ner flanked by Greek Pres­i­dent Prokopis Pavlopou­los (cen­tre) at the Pres­i­den­tial Man­sion in Athens on Novem­ber 15.

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