- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

President Bush departs today on his first European trip to make forceful arguments for a U.S. missile defense system and a less restrictive global warming pact, a tour analysts say will be heavy on pomp and "the charm factor" and light on policy and substance.
"Its largely atmospherics," said Marshall Wittmann, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. "Particularly the first trip abroad is less substance and more schtick. Largely all he has to do is show up and pronounce the names correctly, and therell be a new story line in Europe."
But there will be historic moments as well — the emergence of a new U.S. president on the world stage, his first meeting with a Russian president, elaborate state dinners featuring the leader of the most powerful country in the world as the guest of honor.
With major domestic achievements — most notably a $1.35 trillion tax cut — under his belt, Mr. Bush is moving to sell major components of his foreign policy and environmental agenda that, until now, have upset some allies.
Chief among them are his plan to construct a missile defense system to protect the United States from nuclear warheads fired by "rogue" countries and his call for a new global warming treaty that will not damage U.S. interests.
"Hell be under the microscope because this is the first time the president will truly be on a world stage," Mr. Wittmann said. "There will probably be a lot of hand-holding of the Europeans because of their anxiety attacks that they seem to be experiencing over the last few months. Essentially his job is to assuage their anxieties."
Stephen Hess, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, expects the president and his senior aides to be heavily scripted and on message throughout the trip. But he still sees some vulnerability.
"Hes going into the lions den. Hes going to a group of our traditional allies who are uncomfortable because they dont know him and uncomfortable because it appears that he doesnt agree with them."
"He will be charming, of course, but I think its going to be hard for him to leave behind him enthusiasm for his positions. Its incumbent for him to better state his positions," Mr. Hess said.
The European trip will unfold at breakneck speed as the president — known as an energetic early riser — visits five countries in five days.
He lands tomorrow morning Central European Time in Madrid, where he will be greeted by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia, both friends of Mr. Bushs father. Later in the day, he will visit Los Quintos de Mora, the ranch of President Jose Maria Aznar Lopez.
"Spain is an appropriate place for the president to begin his trip," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said. "This country is an important NATO ally and trading partner, and a great example of successful post-authoritarian transition, and it is fast emerging as an influential European partner."
But some, including Mr. Hess, were puzzled why the president would make his first stop in Spain and not the United Kingdom. "I really dont know why hes going to Spain first," Mr. Hess said.
Mr. Aznar is expected to press for Spains admission to the Group of Eight, the worlds leading industrial countries plus Russia. Mr. Bushs second international trip will take him to the G-8 meeting in Genoa, Italy, in July.
On Wednesday, he travels to Brussels and drops in on a NATO meeting at the organizations headquarters. At days end he goes to Laeken Palace, the home of King Albert II and Queen Paola.
Mr. Bush will stress his support for continued NATO enlargement — possibly including Slovenia — as the alliance prepares to consider admitting new members in Prague next year, Bush advisers said. A key issue is whether one or more Baltic nations should be allowed to join despite Russias objections to bringing NATO to its borders.
The president will also use the stop to tout his proposal for a U.S. missile defense shield, which some countries see as an offensive capability forbidden by a treaty with Russia. Mr. Bush in April announced he would seek input from all major allies before moving ahead with the plan.
Thursday, Mr. Bush flies to Goteberg, Sweden, to meet with Prime Minister Goran Persson and European Union President Romano Prodi. After a meeting with EU leaders, he lunches with King Carl Gustav XVI and Queen Silvia and Crown Princess Victoria. He then makes a stop at the Borsen Stock Exchange before attending a state dinner.
During his Sweden trip, the issue of global warming is expected to take center stage. Mr. Bushs predecessor, President Bill Clinton, favored the 1997 Kyoto global climate warming treaty, which would require industrial nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the byproduct of burning oil, gas and coal that some scientists say is causing the Earths atmosphere to warm.
But Mr. Bush in March announced the United States was abandoning the pact — which had been ratified by only one of 168 countries, Bulgaria — because it is too restrictive.
The president is expected to announce today that he will propose spending millions of dollars to study the causes of global warming and whether it can be reduced, but he will not abandon his opposition to mandatory controls because they could lead to increases in natural gas prices and cause power shortages like those in California.
Mr. Bush will also get a chance to defend his national energy policy, which has been criticized by Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson, who has called the presidents plan "unbelievable."
On Friday, he travels to Warsaw and meets with President Aleksander Kwasniewski at the presidential palace.
Mr. Bush may push — as has Secretary of State Colin L. Powell — for Poland to purchase 60 U.S.-made fighters over French or British models. The Poles, for their part, are expected to raise a lawsuit filed by a group of Jewish Holocaust-era survivors who are seeking to force the Polish government to compensate them for property seized by the Nazis during World War II.
Saturday is perhaps the most anticipated day of the trip, when Mr. Bush travels to Ljubljana, Slovenia, for his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He will sit down with Slovenian Prime Minster Janez Drnovsek and President Milan Kucan at Brdo Castle before departing for Washington.
In his two-hour meeting with Mr. Putin, Mr. Bush is expected to sound out the Russian leader on the proposal to replace the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to move ahead with a U.S. missile defense system. Mr. Bush is also expected to explain his offer to provide Russia military aid, joint anti-missile exercises and possible purchases of missiles to ease Russian objections.
Each days trip is heavily choreographed, with all but one daily event covered by "pool" reporters, a small rotating group of representatives from print, broadcast and radio news organizations who share their work with others in their media. And each day ends with a press conference or "press availability" open to all traveling White House correspondents.
Mr. Hess said the tight structure is understandable. "Hes going to be getting his first reviews from the foreign policy establishment. In a sense, the best he can do is go armed with a very good text. It will not be spontaneous."
But Mr. Hess said the president has the upper hand.
"This is the continuing saga of underestimating George W. Bush, and its certainly to his — and any politicians — advantage to be underestimated. The Europeans are reading the same press everyone else is reading that says he is a dumbbell," Mr. Hess said.
Mr. Wittmann agrees, likening the trip — the presidents first out of North America — to the debut debate between Mr. Bush and his presidential rival, Vice President Al Gore, in the 2000 election.
"One thing Bush has always benefited from is low expectations. Its quite possible that this trip will be largely successful because the expectations are so low," Mr. Wittmann said.
"This trip is to the Europeans what the first debate was with Al Gore. They will be surprised when they see the actual president who exceeds their expectations," he said.

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