President Obama’s refusal to take part in the European/U.S. summit planned for the end of May in Madrid is more than just a slap in the face to the Spanish President of the European Union.

In just slightly less than one year, President Obama stands with his back to the wall and the consequences for his foreign policies are mostly negative. This conclusion was reached by the Washington correspondent for the Financial Times concerning the change from “hope” to “fear and anger” evident in voter reaction to the Senate election in Massachusetts. Obama’s turn toward populism in confronting Wall Street may be understandable in domestic political terms. The stark contrast between the billions paid to bankers while unemployment remains high awakened an unprecedented rage against the gamblers and generated approval for Obama’s tax and regulation proposals. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was also on the same sheet of music with his “loss of values” criticisms and his remarks on the crises of globalization.

In view of enormous deficits, high unemployment figures and the rise of developing nations, fears of a return to protectionism have resurfaced. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, pointed out that every fifth American male between 25 and 55 years of age was unemployed, whereas in the 1960s, 95 percent of that group had jobs. In order to “save capitalism,” according to Summers, free trade policies should not be extended to nations pursuing purely profit-seeking (China?) policies.

Despite American sociologist Jeremy Rifkin’s usual optimistic clichés and “vision of a gentle superpower” represented by the U.S. and the E.U., Europe lacks the relevant individuals who possess essential leadership qualities like perseverance, steadfastness, authority and the willingness to fight.

The current E.U. Council President Belgian Herman von Rompuy, the untested E.U. “Secretary of State” Catherine Ashton of Great Britain, and last but not least, the reelected Commission President José Manual Barroso are only moderators engaged in creating consensus on various issues and are hardly capable of setting public policy goals and dealing with day-to-day agendas.

President Obama’s refusal to take part in the European/U.S. summit planned for the end of May in Madrid is more than just a slap in the face to the Spanish President of the European Union during a time when the U.S. is in the midst of an economic crisis. Obama is probably staying at home for more than just reasons of domestic politics.

Despite the optimistic expectations emerging from the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union’s 27 member nations do not speak with a unified voice and they play only a marginal role in important issues of security for areas like Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Obama also remained conspicuously absent from the symbolic celebrations surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As the European Union is being written off as an independent force in global politics, Washington is redirecting its entire attention — apart from its own domestic crises — toward the so-called BRIC nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China.