Much of the world is watching the outcome of the US elections with extraordinary attention, in the overwhelming hope – and expectation – that Barack Obama will win. In China, India and Russia, however, they do not seem to care very much.
Perhaps precisely because he is an unknown quantity in foreign affairs, Mr Obama has aroused great hopes for an improvement in relations with the US, above all in Europe, but also in countries as far apart as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines. In France, Germany and Italy, more than 60 per cent of those polled for the BBC World Service thought relations would improve.
Of course, they could scarcely get worse than they have been under President George W. Bush. But the danger for a victorious Mr Obama would be of failing to meet those hopes when his policy agenda is going to be focused overwhelmingly on coping with the domestic consequences of the global economic crisis, and extricating his troops from Iraq and – eventually – Afghanistan.
If Mr Obama wins, as all the polls now predict, seldom can a US president have been elected with such high expectations and such daunting challenges.
Given the dangers of a protectionist backlash among his own Democratic party supporters in the US Congress, a slowdown or recession in the US economy, and the prospects of a messy retreat from Iraq, combined with an escalating war in Afghanistan, he seems almost condemned to disappoint his many admirers.