Obama will deliver the address, characterized by advisers as “the anchor speech” of his six-day European trip, to the British Parliament at Westminster Hall, becoming the first American leader to do so in that historic venue.
But his argument, directed at the European public, will be politically challenging. Britain and several other European members of NATO are sharply cutting back spending and public services to rebalance budgets strained by the weak global economy — something the United States hasn’t done to the same extent.
In making his case to a war-weary Europe, Obama will describe the U.S.-European partnership as one that goes beyond a military alliance, declaring that shared political values are helping inspire the rising demand for democracies in the Arab world.
“He’ll speak to the fact that we’ve obviously come through a very difficult decade, but in some respects we’re turning a corner,” Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security adviser, told reporters.
Obama came to office promising to reinvigorate the various U.S. alliances with Europe, which the previous administration divided into “old Europe” and the newer democracies of Central and Eastern Europe that more fully supported U.S. counterterrorism policies.
But his attention to strengthening U.S. ties to other parts of the world, particularly Asia, worried some European leaders, who thought he was taking the relationship for granted. His swing through four nations this week is, in part, an effort to dispel those misgivings.
While still popular with the European public, Obama has left some European leaders struggling to understand an administration that, in the case of Libya, has been willing to cede leadership to NATO.
“People in Europe misperceived him as a global president, a Dali Obama come to save the world,” said Constanze Stelzenmueller, a transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “Now they know differently, but they still like him, and he commands great respect and popularity in Europe. But for the policy elites, the picture is quite different.”
His address at Westminster Hall will be the most substantive event of the trip so far after a start heavy with ceremony.
On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, for his first state visit here. The official greeting took place just before noon at Buckingham Palace.
The Obamas walked up the red carpet to the palace door, where the queen, her ubiquitous handbag in the crook of her arm, greeted them with a handshake and smile. Prince Philip stood by her side.