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20 Jan, 2010 06:19

Obama’s year in office: no more great expectations

A year ago the world watched Barack Obama's historic inauguration as US president. At the time the buzzword was “hope”. Today it has changed to “broken promises” and “lost expectations”.

On January 20, 2009, Capitol Hill was filled with crowds cheering for the newly elected president. But shortly after his inauguration people started taking to the streets for different reasons – demanding the promised closure of the Guantanamo Bay and protesting against healthcare reform and treatment of immigrants.

“America is going broke. We've given trillions of dollars for Wall Street, trillions of dollars for war. Meanwhile, you've got all these people out of work, people losing their homes, their jobs, their retirement security. I mean, that's not what America is supposed to be about,” says US Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Medea Benjamin from the anti-war group Code Pink: Women for Peace' says Obama hasn't met people’s expectations.

“It was extremely disappointing,” she said. “Maybe we had irrationally high hopes, but I remember sitting in that inauguration thinking that this was going to be a year of fantastic change. And now I think that this is not the change that I had hoped for, that I had voted for.”

Since becoming president, Obama has not delivered on his promises to get US troops back home. On the contrary, he has expanded the war in Afghanistan. And it is not only the matter of American soldiers fighting on foreign soil, but also that of spending huge amounts of money, especially during an economic crisis.

“I think it's an absolute moral outrage that he takes a stand on whether to spend money rather than whether to cover people with healthcare when he is funding outrageous foreign occupations to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars every year,” believes author and political activist David Swanson.

Politician Pat Buchanan says this strategy makes Obama extremely vulnerable politically:

“I think politically he will be in a hellish situation. He seems to be indicating that we're sending them in to pull them out. He's got a political crisis coming.”

It seems that even fellow Democrats cannot agree on how to approach Obama's first year in office.

Liberal critic Tim Fernholz from the American Prospect magazine and Terry Michael, Director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, shared their views with RT’s Washington studio.

However, the Nobel Committee seems to be pretty optimistic. Just in the midst of his decision to escalate the war, Barack Obama was unexpectedly awarded the prestigious peace prize.

Evgeny Bazhanov, Vice-President of the Moscow-based Diplomatic Academy, has praised Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with other countries and especially with Russia. Bazhanov says overcoming George W. Bush’s legacy takes time.

“The previous administration tried to rule the world. It didn’t pay attention to the United Nations, to international law, to other countries. And Obama tries to do that. If you look at Russian-American relations, they improved. A year ago everybody talked about a new Cold War, nobody talks about this now.”

Konstantin Kosachev, the Head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, agrees:

“We are making progress – maybe not that significant, as many people were hoping when Obama entered into power, but still the progress is there.”

He particularly pointed out that Russia and the US are close to signing a new agreement on strategic nuclear armaments and dialogue on the US anti-missile shield in Europe.

Former Member of the European Parliament Giulietto Chiesa sees no significant achievements from Obama when it comes to US foreign policy and tackling terrorism – be it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Guantanamo Bay.

“I don’t see any changes, Obama is a wonderful speaker, but they are only speeches. When it comes to concrete deals, nothing has changed,” Chiesa told RT. “The problem is that Obama seems incapable of facing the pressure.”

Government and business consultant Christoph Horstel has noted some positive changes in the new administration’s foreign policy but says they are not enough:

“Obama is more open. He is talking directly to Iran without preconditions – that’s something new. But it hasn’t led to much, unfortunately. Military pressure on Iran is there. We are seeing a shift of troops literally from Iraq to Afghanistan. So the troop presence has not changed much in the last year.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, says the main course of foreign policy is in general positive.

“America has many right approaches,” he said. “But they underestimated the size of the problems they would face.”