Opinion: Obama looks to the history books in 2015

Obama Jahresend-Pressekonferenz 19.12.2014

The political clock always starts ticking louder when a presidency winds down than it did at the beginning of a term. Now time is running out for US President Barack Obama. 2015 is the last year he'll be able to shape political policy as president. After that, campaigning for his successor will determine the daily political calendar. That has led many to expect to see a decisive and headstrong Obama in the coming months. In the end, he will want his legacy to have a respectable spot in the history books.

Making predictions in politics is like skating on thin ice. But DW's Miodrag Soric sharpened his skates to take a look at what's in store for the United States in 2015.

First, he will start off by defending what he has already managed to achieve. This will include the health care reform. If Republicans try to undo this reform, as they have threatened, Obama will use his veto power. With "Obamacare," the president has managed to make a mark on the United States that will last for at least the next few years.

It's a mark he, unfortunately, has not been able to make when it comes to immigration. The Republicans continue to block bills that would make it possible for over 11 million "illegal immigrants" to remain legally in the United States. Obama is resorting to using presidential decrees to at least make sure a number of immigrants aren't deported.

Whether US citizen or not, everyone from east coast to west benefits from strong growth. America's economic motor is up and running again. Jobs are being created and real estate prices are rising. The economic boost is due in part to low energy prices. The situation appears to look good for 2015: stock prices will rise and the dollar will gain in value over the euro. The Federal Reserve has announced a change of interest rates. Obama can definitely take credit for this economic recovery.

But he wants more than that. Behind closed doors, he has been negotiating with Republicans on a free trade pact with Asia and the European Union. Left-leaning Democrats and union members have voiced concerns over a possible free trade pact, but Obama will assert himself - if he has to. He wants to make history this year by bagging an agreement. If he fails, his successor won't be able to get this topic on the agenda until 2018 at the earliest. That would mean three years lost for the USA.

Foreign policy stumbles

So far, Obama has had little luck when it comes to foreign policy. He wanted to go down in history as the president who ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the fighting continues. The situation in Syria is more complex than ever due to the rise of the so-called "Islamic State." Obama continues to search for a strategy for the region, but there is little reason to think he will find one in 2015.

There is also a dark cloud hanging over US ties with Russia. Moscow does not want to give up the Crimean Peninsula. But that's something Washington cannot accept. Turning to Eastern Europe is a thankless task for Obama. That's why he delegated the task to Vice President Joe Biden. But the vice president is often emotional and unprofessional. He is not helping Ukrainians by putting a sympathetic grimace on his face. What Ukraine needs is a cash injection worth billions. And it looks like they will be waiting in vain for one to come in 2015. The more financial gaps that appear in Kyiv, the less the Americans are interested in the "Rest of Ukraine." It's a tragedy.

Obama had not only inspired hope for a better life among people in Ukraine. He also inspired the people of North Africa. But that seems like it was all a long time ago. The US president has since switched sides and come to terms with generals in Cairo. But in the West, at least, no one will seriously criticize him for that.

At least Obama is still trying to find the right balance in US policy toward China. He is being patient in nuclear negotiations with Iran and has managed to create a new - let's say historic - policy toward Cuba.

These are all positive aspects for 2015. Obama is writing history, something Goethe said is a good way of getting rid of the past.

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