Yet as he prepares for summit talks beginning Monday in Mexico with the other world leaders, Obama is down to the power of persuasion and little else.
A looming, perilous Greek election and Europe’s internal politics are controlling the debate.
Given the teetering global economy and the breadth of leaders about to gather in the coastal resort of Los Cabos, the Group of 20 summit meeting carries the weight of expectations it is not likely to meet. Most of its members are not part of Europe and they have no power to drive how the continent manages its crisis, although do they come looking for signs of progress and urgency.
That clearly is the case for Obama, locked in a tight election that may be decided singlehandedly by whether U.S. job growth sinks or climbs over the next five months.
While economic challenge will dominate the summit, the agenda runs deeper.
In talks on the sidelines, Obama will confront the bloodshed in Syria and the nuclear threat in Iran. He will meet with Vladimir Putin, who has returned to the presidency of Russia. Their talks will be scrutinized, given tense U.S.-Russian political relations and deep divisions over Syria.
Obama was to head to Mexico tonight after a weekend with his family in their hometown of Chicago. The summit runs Monday and Tuesday.
Europe’s entangled financial crisis, from debt woes in Greece to banking trouble in Spain and high unemployment all around, has become the single biggest threat to the U.S. economic recovery. The signs of worry are clear at the White House and in the words of Obama, who can draw a straight line from the fate of Europe’s economic strength to his chances of a second term.
Obama is prodding European leaders to give world markets some confidence, and fast.
“Obviously, this matters to us because Europe is our largest economic trading partner,” Obama said. “If there’s less demand for our products in places like Paris or Madrid, it could mean less business for manufacturers in places like Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. The good news is there is a path out of this challenge. These decisions are fundamentally in the hands of Europe’s leaders.”
He wants to emerge from Mexico with signs that the European players at the table, led by Germany, are moving on their own agenda. That means pursuing a banking union to match the monetary union linking the eurozone, taking steps to keep borrowing costs down in the weakest nations and injecting life into economies with growth plans involving public money.
Or in short, as Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard put it, the focus in Mexico will be “ensuring our European partners are escalating their response” to stabilizing a dicey situation.