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Great expectations for Obama abroad

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"Obama is the most global, multilateral president we've had in a century," argues Ronald Asmus, director of the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, "and he will change the direction of US foreign policy."

In Berlin in July, Obama described the world as at "a crossroads" – testing a future that will have greater unity and a "shared destiny" among peoples, or not.

No one underestimates the challenges of disunity. "We are entering territory in which the risks and penalties of getting something like the global economic crisis wrong – are greater than the stakes during the cold war … a time when the worst didn't happen," says François Heisbourg at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "No one has figured out how to deal with this new crisis; Obama will have to learn fast."

How will Obama change the 'tone' of US diplomacy, as promised during the campaign?

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