"The European situation is quite different form the U.S.," said Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former chief economist at the International Monetary fund. "Certainly if you were proposing precipitating immediate austerity in the U.S. you might reconsider it. But that is not what Romney or Obama is going to be proposing."
Romney supports the Republican budget plan offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and has called for even steeper domestic spending cuts and higher spending on defense. But even those cuts aren't as steep as what debt-ridden countries like Greece have had to contemplate.
Despite the fear that a European financial collapse could spread to U.S. shores, the Obama administration so far has taken the position that the Europeans can correct their own problems without assistance from the United States. Obama aides have said repeatedly that the president has no intention of adding U.S. taxpayer dollars to the IMF for any possible bailout of a eurozone country, a step that would invite opposition from congressional Republicans.
That leaves Obama with few options to stave off European financial disaster, Johnson said. And even when it comes to protecting the U.S. economy, Obama's best bet rests with the Federal Reserve, which Johnson faulted for letting banks reduce their capital reserves to pay off dividends.
The European financial network, intricately intertwined with the U.S. banking system, looks more precarious after the election results, Johnson said, adding: "We should be building up capital buffers against losses."
The economy aside, the election results in France pose new foreign policy challenges for Obama.
Hollande has vowed to pull French troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.
What's more, Obama is looking for European countries to help with the U.S. commitment to assist Afghanistan rebuild and sustain internal security after all U.S. combat troops leave in 2014. Those pledges will be at the center of discussions when Obama hosts fellow leaders for the May20-21 NATO summit in Chicago.
The questions, said Heather Conley of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is whether Europe can make that commitment based on both its political and austerity constraints.
And, she added, can the U.S. seek such European support without making some financial commitment to helping the eurozone solve its debt crisis.
"It's ironic that at the same moment we're telling them to take care of this yourself," she said, "we are asking them to fulfill their pledge."
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