Obama warns against ‘crude’ nationalism
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. –
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.