jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net jacdon at SPAMearthlink.net
Fri Jun 22 13:34:57 MDT 2001

This article on President Bush’s visit to Europe will appear in next
week’s issue of the Mid-Hudson (N.Y.) Action Calendar, an Email left
newsletter/calendar for the region which may be obtained regularly by
subbing at jacdon at earthlink.net.


By Jack A. Smith

President George Bush went to Europe in mid-June to convince
Washington’s closest allies in the industrialized world that his
policies do not constitute unilateral expressions of big-power hubris
and a penchant for global economic, military and political domination.
No wonder his five-day, five-nation journey was a veritable fiasco.

A number of difficulties have beset relations between the world’s only
superpower and several of its major European cohorts, Russia and Japan
over the last several years.  The actions of the Bush administration
since it took office in January, however, have  generated the greatest
tensions of the post-Cold War period among these allies, emanating from
such decisions as the thrust toward constructing a national missile
defense network (NMD) at the expense of the sacrosanct ABM Treaty and
rejection of the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gases.  One measure
of Europe’s discomfort was the May 3 rejection of U.S. membership in the
UN Human Rights Commission, a calculated blow to White House prestige.

Bush’s journey was intended to mitigate European distrust and fear of
Washington’s world leadership--a malaise that goes beyond the usual
intra-capitalist rivalries.   It failed for lack of substance.
Demonstrations against a plethora of U.S. policies took place throughout
Bush’s visit.  Key  European leaders staged their own protests, using
diplomatic language, virtually every time Bush finished speaking.
Indeed, just before the president arrived to address a European Union
conference in Sweden, Prime Minister Goran Persson sought to mollify
protesters by telling them the E.U. deserves their support because “It’s
one of the few institutions we can develop as a balance to U.S. world

(According to a Pew Research Center poll released June 22, the majority
of the American people took little notice of the presidential journey.
Only 35% followed the event fairly or very closely, which is lower then
average  for foreign trips.  The European jaunt did nothing to enhance
President Bush’s popularity rating, which the poll reported had declined
to 50%, a drop of six points since April.)

The stage was set for rejection of Bush’s overtures a few days before
his trip when NATO defense ministers expressed deep skepticism about the
NMD.  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been sent to Brussels to
convince them that the 1972 anti-ballistic-missile treaty “stands in the
way of a 21st century approach to deterrence”--a notion which appalls
most of Europe.

Bush himself was directly confronted with Europe’s doubts about the
necessity or effectiveness of NMD--and the grave consequences of
scrapping the ABM Treaty--at a meeting of the Atlantic Alliance leaders
June 13.  Opposition to the missile shield concept followed him through
the rest of his trip, culminating in his meeting with Russian President
Vladimir Putin June 16.

Perhaps the most intense conflict took place over global warming when
the U.S. president attended a meeting with the leaders of the European
Union in Goteborg, Sweden, June 14. The allies strongly rejected Bush’s
argument that the treaty “goals were not realistic” and were not “well
balanced” because they “didn’t include developing nations.”  The Kyoto
accord stipulated that developed countries, by far the worst offenders,
take the lead in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that cause
global warming.

Thoroughly undercutting the president’s perspective was the news the
same day that China--a developing nation not obliged to reach the goals
set by Kyoto--had reduced carbon dioxide emissions in the last several
years by 17% while expanding its gross domestic product by 36%.  U.S.
emissions increased during that period.

The European Union leaders, who were about to discuss among themselves
the controversial matter of expanding beyond 15 member states, also
evidenced displeasure when Bush took the occasion to publicly instruct
them that “Europe ought to include nations beyond the current scope of
E.U. and NATO.”  This provoked E.U. foreign affairs commissioner Chris
Patten to deadpan, “The United States is not a member of the European

In Poland, where Bush appears to have found his only support of the
trip, the president stressed that “my government believes NATO should
expand” all the way to the Russian border.  When Bush met with Putin the
next day, the Russian leader told the press, “Look, this [NATO] is a
military organization. It’s moving towards our border. Why?”   Putin
said later that Moscow would break the 1993 agreement with Washington to
refrain from adding multiple warheads to its missile force if the U.S.
unilaterally decided to abrogate the ABM Treaty.

Despite these serious differences, all parties to the presidential
meetings  offered contrived expressions of good feeling and none
mentioned aloud what the New York Times described as several of Bush’s
“erroneous, unclear or unwelcome characterizations.”   The U.S., as the
most powerful national security state in world history, is not to be
trifled with, of course, and allied discontent may dissipate in time.
But at this point,  away from the conference tables and TV cameras, it
is obvious that Europe seeks to transform itself over time into a
credible counterbalance to Washington’s increasingly unilateral
assertion of power and projection of military prowess, while Russia and
China are closing ranks to buffer themselves from any further U.S.
adventures in imperial manipulation.

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