If the measure of Barack Obama's success in mending US–European relations is whether the tone has improved, his presidency has been a great success. If the measure of success, however, is halting the drifting apart of policy preferences, the picture looks a lot less rosy. This article argues that the ‘drift’ in relations did not start and end with the Bush administration. Rather it reflects deep-seated preferences and very different world views on both sides. Given this, the best any one leader on either side can hope for is to manage relations with as little friction and acrimony as possible. The Obama administration realises that, and by this more limited measure, it has succeeded brilliantly.