From Financial Times
By James Blitz in London
Published: January 19 2009 23:51 | Last updated: January 19 2009 23:51
Any attempt by Barack Obama to get European Union members of Nato to send more troops to Afghanistan will be strongly rebuffed by EU voters, according to a new opinion poll for the Financial Times.
As Mr Obama prepares to be sworn in as US president on Tuesday, a Harris poll for the FT shows that clear majorities of people in the UK, France, Italy and Germany believe that their governments must not send more forces to Afghanistan, irrespective of demands that the new American head of state might make.
The opinion poll shows that Mr Obama continues to enjoy high approval ratings in these four EU states. At least three-quarters of people in each of the countries surveyed, which also included Spain, believe that the new president will have “a positive impact on the course of international events”.
But while the poll underscores the considerable respect Mr Obama enjoys in these European countries, it also reveals the resistance he will face if, as strongly expected, he calls on Europe to do more in the fight against the Taliban. (Story continues below the graphic …)
Some 60 per cent of German respondents to the survey said they would not wish Berlin to send more troops to Afghanistan under any circumstances. Even in the UK, the second largest contributor to Nato’s mission in Afghanistan, some 57 per cent of respondents rejected calls for any more British troops to be sent.
In both France and Italy, some 53 per cent of people said their countries should not send troops. Only in Spain is there a majority willing to consider sending additional troop numbers.
The opinion poll, which was conducted online among a total of 6,299 adults between January 8 and January 15, reveals that voters in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain believe the international financial crisis must be at the top of the list of issues to which Mr Obama should give priority.
A clear majority of respondents in four of the five European countries surveyed – Spain being the exception – said they had no concerns at all that Mr Obama’s relative lack of experience would hinder an economic recovery in the US or Europe.
On the diplomatic front, the poll reveals that voters would like to see the new president reaching out to Iran, amid fears in many western states that Tehran is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. At least two thirds of adults in all five European countries, as well as the US, agreed that Mr Obama “should personally meet leading figures in the Iranian government”.
However, the poll shows a sharp divergence between the US and the EU countries on the significance that Mr Obama should attach to fighting al-Qaeda and the jihadist terrorist threat.
Some 45 per cent of US respondents said that President Obama should continue to place the fight against international terrorism at the top of his list of priorities. However, in each of the European countries, the number that took this view was considerably lower.
In the UK, only 24 per cent of respondents said fighting international terrorism should be top of Mr Obama’s priorities, while in Germany the figure was as low as 13 per cent.