U.S. seems at odds with rest of world on important issues
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush came into office promising a ”humble” foreign policy, yet his administration has managed to irritate friend and foe alike.
Five months into Bush’s term, the United States stands against the world on issues stretching from missile defense and the environment to trade and even the death penalty.
Many European allies are troubled by what they see as growing U.S. ”unilateralism,” or a determination to go it alone, sometimes in seeming defiance of much of the rest of the world.
”The rest of the world thinks we’re a big bully,” said Ivo Daalder, a a national security official in the Clinton administration who is now with the Brookings Institution. ”You’ve got a growing gap between the United States and Europe on how they view the world.”
This ”fundamental chasm” existed under Clinton, Daalder said, but seems more pronounced under Bush.
The United States ”does not seem to think that some rules, which make the international community work, need necessarily be taken into account on certain issues,” French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said, suggesting a cavalier U.S. attitude on global climate change.
Bush will have a chance to address such frictions on his first major international trip. After leaving Washington Monday night, he will visit Spain and Poland, attend a NATO summit in Brussels, see European Union leaders in Sweden and meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia.
”I think he ought to listen to them. I think he needs to hear their concerns because they’re real,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Sunday. ”And I think it could have a profound effect on our relationships for some time to come.”
Bush recently offered conciliatory gestures on some of the most contentious issues – North Korea, the Balkans, global warming and the Mideast peace process. On Sunday, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, pledged the administration would consult with allies and adversaries on missile defense. ”It is the responsible thing to do.”
Still, many irritants remain.
Furthermore, he opened a new policy rift with the European Union just a week before his trip by taking steps toward blocking steel imports.
Secretary of State Colin Powell denies the United States is embarking on a go-it-alone strategy. ”When we feel strongly about an issue, we’ll take a position. This means we feel strongly about an issue, not that we’re abandoning the world and going off into a cocoon somewhere,” Powell said.
”The notion, somehow, that we have tremendous tensions with our European allies, I think is, frankly, not just right,” said Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser. ”Of course, we have policy differences on a number of issues. … But the common values and the common agenda far outweigh policy differences that we have.”
The Senate’s top Republican, Trent Lott of Mississippi, visited Europe last month. Leaders there, he said Sunday, understand that ”this new unilateralism doesn’t mean we’re not going to consult. We are going to consider America’s needs and interests first.”
Some of the sticking points:
-Bush’s plan for a missile defense shield has rattled key allies and angered Russia and China.
-Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto treaty on global warming without notifying allies angered environmentalists and many European leaders. He has appeased them somewhat by advocating a package of mostly voluntary initiatives and flexible caps on emissions.
-Other than Britain, few allies seem interested in maintaining a hard line against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
-Earlier comments by administration officials hinting at a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Balkans troubled allies. Bush is expected to make clear that America will do nothing abruptly.
Even Bush’s support of the death penalty, both as Texas governor and as president, has subjected him to widespread criticism in Europe, even though former President Clinton also backed the death penalty.
Overall, it has been a rough five months for Bush’s evolving foreign policy.
Arms sales to Taiwan and the collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese jet fighter soured relations with China. Ties with Japan, an otherwise certain ally, were strained by the collision of a U.S. nuclear submarine and a Japanese fishing vessel.
Also, the United States was stripped of its longtime seat on the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission.
In recent days, Bush has backed away from some hard-line decisions – for example, taking a gentler line on climate change.
After signaling a hands-off stance in dealing with the Middle East, Bush last week sent CIA Director George Tenet to the region as a high-profile troubleshooter.
The president also decided to resume talks with North Korea on missile inspections and troop cuts, reversing his earlier decision to break off discussions.
”I’m glad that they’re resuming their talks with North Korea,” said Sandy Berger, who was Clinton’s national security adviser. ”I think it’s the right thing to do. But I’m sorry we lost six months.”
”It is important for Bush to define for Europeans what our larger objectives are,” Berger said in an interview. ”So far, they’ve only heard missile defense and a tougher line for China.” Berger said there are still ”powerful trans-Atlantic ties” even if Europe and the United States do not see eye to eye on many issues.
Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the administration has sent mixed signals on the Balkans and should recognize that Europeans have real anxieties about a missile-defense shield.
But he said it is a mistake think that a rift between the United States and Europe is anything new. ”There’s been a trans-Atlantic crisis for nearly 40 years. There has always been constant tension between the United States and Europe,” Cordesman said.
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