The Cable

Former Spanish PM: Obama is the least European president ever

Barack Obama is less interested in the U.S.-European relationship than any president in American history, according to the former Spanish prime minister. "Europe is not a priority for this administration because the Atlantic system is not a priority for this administration," said Jose Maria Aznar, who led the Spanish government from 1996 to 2004. "We ...

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Barack Obama is less interested in the U.S.-European relationship than any president in American history, according to the former Spanish prime minister.

"Europe is not a priority for this administration because the Atlantic system is not a priority for this administration," said Jose Maria Aznar, who led the Spanish government from 1996 to 2004. "We can be useful sometimes, but it not a priority. The priority is China, the Muslim world, the relationship with Russia."

In a wide-ranging interview with The Cable, Aznar argued that President Obama’s policies on Afghanistan, his approach to Israel, his failed outreach to the Muslim world, and his overall neglect of U.S.-European relations has eroded his previously robust European support.

"Europeans defended Obama with more eagerness than Americans even. But now, many leaders understand that this president is the least European president in the history of the United States," Aznar said.

A staunch ally of the George W. Bush administration, Aznar has argued for the aggressive prosecution of the fight against Islamic extremism and supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq despite widespread opposition to the war in Spain. His party was voted out of office only 3 days after a series of train bombings in Madrid that Aznar’s government initially blamed on the ETA separatist movement. He now leads a Spanish think tank and sits on the board of media conglomerate News Corp., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Aznar said that the Obama administration has not clearly identified itself with what he calls "Western values."

"This American administration is different. This is the first American administration that is not exactly educated in Atlantic values, universal values, it is educated in other values. This is one of the reasons this administration’s position regarding Israel is different than previous American administrations," he said.

Aznar was in town last month for the Washington launch of the Friends of Israel Initiative, a European pro-Israel group he helped to found. He took the opportunity to also comment on the leading religious controversy of the day: The proposed construction of an Islamic community center near the former site of the World Trade Center towers in downtown Manhattan.

"To build a mosque near Ground Zero is a serious mistake," he said. "The mistake is that most of the people identify the attacks of 9/11 with radical Islamists… In the feelings of a lot of people, for al Qaeda it will be a victory — not only to destroy the towers but now to build a mosque there."

He also said that Europe is frustrated with a lack of a clear path forward for the war in Afghanistan.

"To have indecision in the government is very bad. If you look at Afghanistan, it’s possible to say things are going well or going bad. But do you have the will to win or not? Are you going to win or not? Or do you want to pull out quickly?"

"If you want to win, please let us know. If you want to organize a pull out, please organize it. But it’s not a good policy to maintain indecision in this instance, and finally the results are very bad not only for the interests of the West but also for the leadership of the United States."

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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