President Obama has made more phone calls to foreign leaders in the past month than at any other time during his second term, USA Today reports - a telling gauge of just how considerably global crises have escalated in Ukraine, the Middle East and elsewhere.
An international call log culled from nearly 1,100 readouts of White House phone conversations shows the number of times the president spoke with world leaders this month was the second-highest since he took office in 2009. The newspaper says his greatest spike was in November 2012, when he returned congratulatory messages following his reelection, but also points out a bump this past March during mounting calls for U.S. intervention in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, where Russian President Vladimir Putin had just gone ahead with military force.
Now such concerns are not only more dire, but expansive. As Ukrainian armed forces press an onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters following a downed Malaysia Airlines flight earlier this month, an influx of foreign fighters joining with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have heightened sectarian bloodletting in the Middle East. Meanwhile, terrorists with Boko Haram who are still holding hostage hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls have only intensified their efforts, and bloody clashes continue to plague Libya.
Indicating which nations Mr. Obama considers his closest and most assistive allies, the call log reveals he's talked most frequently with leaders from the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, France and Turkey. One relationship which the president has largely passed off to Vice President Joe Biden is that with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom then-President George W. Bush spoke with weekly during his administration.
For his part, USA Today says Biden, too, has stepped up his phone offensive. He's made more calls in 2014 than in the last three years combined, including some dispatched to Iraq, Ukraine and Turkey.
Still, one expert cautioned that there's a limit to what can be realistically accomplished in a short phone interaction: "Ultimately, international relations is about things that are done, and not things that are said on the phone," Bulent Aliriza of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told USA Today. "It's a substitute for real diplomacy, or real diplomatic interaction."