The Obamans Abroad

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Clinton left on Friday for a weeklong trip to Asia, starting with four days in India. Relations between the United States and India have grown closer over the past decade, including a civilian nuclear power agreement completed in 2008. However, India was not included on the itinerary for Clinton's first trip to Asia in February, leading observers to speculate about how the Obama administration views India's role in Asia. Above, Clinton claps to a song sung by members of the Self Employed Women's Association, during a visit to the NGO's headquarters in Mumbai on July 17.


Emitting discontent: On her second day in India, Clinton met with several cabinet ministers, including Forests and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, above, to discuss measures to fight climate change. India, along with China, Brazil and other large developing countries, has been reluctant to impose stronger environmental regulations, fearing that they would undercut industrial development. Clinton's visit apparently did little to soften the Indian stance:  at their press conference, Ramesh complained several times about U.S. pressure to cut emissions, telling reporters, "We are simply not in a position to take over legally binding emission reduction targets."



The end of Clinton's trip was devoted to security and defense issues. Following last year's civilian nuclear power agreement, in which India agreed to anti-proliferation measures in exchange for U.S. companies building civilian reactors throughout the country. India announced the selection of the first two sites where U.S. companies would build nuclear plants. The two countries also took further steps towards completing the sale of over 100 advanced U.S.-manufactured fighter jets to the Indian Air Force. Finally, while speaking to ABC News, Clinton compared North Korea to an unruly child, setting off a spat that would reappear later in the week. Above, Clinton meets Congress Party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Karan Singh, and Rahul Gandhi on July 20.


While Clinton was wrapping up her trip to India, Biden traveled to Ukraine and Georgia. The two former Soviet republics have both become more pro-Western in recent years, partly because of an increasingly assertive Russia. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko rose to power during the 2004 "Orange Revolution" and has pushed for Ukraine's entrance into NATO. However, he is extraordinarily unpopular in the polls (less than 3 percent of Ukrainians favor his re-election), and his major opponents, including Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, above with Biden on July 21, oppose NATO membership.


After meeting with Yushchenko (to whom Biden volunteered that Ukrainian women "are the most beautiful in the world"), Biden confirmed that the Obama administration remained strongly supportive of Ukrainian entry into NATO. Denying that the United States was competing with Russia for the loyalty of its bordering states, Biden said his country hoped the ongoing "reset" of U.S.-Russia relations would help ease tensions in the region. He also urged that Ukraine seek energy independence, a reference to Ukraine's reliance on Russian gas and oil. Above, Biden and Yuschenko visit the memorial for victims of the 1932 Golodomor famine on July 21.


Biden ended his trip in another former Soviet republic -- Georgia. The country is one of the very few places in the world with a "President George W. Bush Street" -- shown above on July 22 -- a symbol of the strong pro-American sentiment in the former Soviet republic. Biden is also popular in the country, having visited to voice his support during last summer's war with Russia. Although Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili enjoys greater popular support than his Ukrainian counterpart, Saakashvili has also had little success in getting his country on the path to NATO membership.


"Don't Forget Us": On Wednesday, Saakashvili hosted the vice president at a reception the New York Times described as "operatic." On his way in, Biden was greeted by crowds waving flags and holding signs with slogans reading "Don't Forget Us" and "Punished for Loving Freedom." At the state dinner, Saakashvili dramatically reminded the guests that "the occupier's new artillery is pointed on this dome, this palace, this city right now, as we speak." Above, Saakashvili presents his "dear friend Joe" with the St. George Victory Order award, a top state honor first earned by George W. Bush in 2005.


On Thursday, Biden spoke to a packed room in Georgia's parliament building. He reaffirmed American support for the Georgian state, and even said that Russia "used a pretext to invade your country," and received several standing ovations. But notes of caution also appeared: Biden reminded Georgians not to fight Russia, and he also met with opposition leaders, who are currently calling for Saakashvili's resignation due to corruption allegations. Above, members of parliament wait to shake hands with Biden in Tblisi.


Round Two: After her India trip, Clinton flew to the Thai island of Phuket for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN Regional Forum consists of the 10 member states, as well as 17 other countries, including the United States. Above, Clinton is greeted by women in traditional Thai dress on July 22.


Clinton's biggest headlines from Phuket had nothing to do with Southeast Asia. Clinton raised eyebrows when she warned that the United States would extend a "defense umbrella" over the Middle East if Iran continued to pursue its nuclear program. She later clarified that the Obama administration was not accepting the inevitability of a nuclear Iran, but many observers, especially in Israel, worried that the United States was "coming to terms" with the idea. Above, delegates in the Regional Forum's main meeting room on July 23.



Last laugh: After comparing North Korea to an unruly child while in India, Clinton continued to target the country at the summit. She expressed concern that Kim Jong Il was supplying weapons and nuclear secrets to Burma in exchange for financial and diplomatic support. North Korea responded to Clinton's remarks by saying "sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping." Undeterred, Clinton declared that the United States is no longer interested in half measures, and called on other countries to follow through with the U.N.'s recent increased sanctions against North Korea. Pictured, Clinton in New Delhi on July 19.

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