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On eve of NATO summit, Obama's style poses inherent challenge for Europe

As president heads to France, Europeans ask how best to respond to an ally that is suddenly sending all the signals it has hoped for.

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President Barack Obama attended the G-20 summit at the ExCel Centre in London on Thursday. Can Europe find its voice when there is basic agreement with Washington?

Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

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As Barack Obama leaves London and heads to a key NATO gathering here Friday, he steps onto the European continent as new, fresh – an urban guy, a 21st century American, someone Europeans understand and admire.

Yet that may be part of the problem. President Obama, the new US face and policy, represents an inherent challenge to Europe: It is not just that Obama drips soft power from every pore, is a listener, a Democrat, "sympathetique," and a hero for immigrant populations in Europe's suburbs that have yet to achieve political power. More deeply, the popular young American president is stirring basic questions here over how to coordinate and respond to a chief ally that is suddenly sending all the signals Europe asked for.

In London, in a last-minute compromise that many called historic, the White House got far more stimulus to relight the global trade economy than many thought possible. However, at NATO's 60th anniversary here in Strasbourg, he may not get more troops for Afghanistan – though the new "Afpak" review indicates such troops are needed even for the civil building that Europeans say will aid in "mission accomplished" there.

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