- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

''I hope the notion of a unilateral approach died in some peoples minds here today," President Bush said at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels following the closed-door meeting, adding, "Unilateralists dont come around the table to listen to others and to share opinions." Nevertheless, the president issued clear signals Wednesday that those opposed to Mr. Bushs vision would not have veto power. Mr. Bush said he "spoke of my commitment to fielding limited but effective missile defenses as soon as possible." He also said he "made it clear to our friends and allies that I think its necessary to set aside the Treaty, noting his intention to do so "in close consultation" with both NATO allies and Russia. For good measure, Mr. Bush asserted, "Im intent upon doing what I think is the right thing in order to make the world more peaceful."

These are not the words of a man unsure of where he wants to lead the world´s most powerful military alliance. In fact, Mr. Bush seems determined to exert the strong American leadership that NATO has long required. Indeed, without the United States leading the way, there is little doubt that the path NATO would take would be far different from the one Mr. Bush is pursuing. As the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 1999 Kosovo engagement clearly demonstrated, the defense capabilities of most of the European allies, particularly those of the the French and Germans, were woefully inadequate. NATO Secretary General George Robertson admitted at the meeting that the Europeans had failed to meet even half their post-Kosovo commitments, concluding that "clear targets … have resulted in clear failure."

Some European governments Spain, Italy, Hungary and Poland have declared their readiness to support missile defense. However, French and German reservations are becoming tiresome. It is not the first time that the left-wing parties now ruling both countries have been dead wrong on the most important military issue of the day. At the height of the Cold War during the early 1980s, socialist-led France, which had previously detached itself from NATO´s military command, was unable to accept deployment of any intermediate-range cruise or ballistic missiles to counter the Soviet Union´s SS-20 ballistic missiles aimed at Western Europe. Weeks before those missiles were to begin arriving in West Germany at the end of 1983, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted to oppose deployment. Fortunately, the SPD did not govern West Germany in 1983. Thanks to President Ronald Reagan, the missiles were deployed, a development that eventually led the Soviet Union to eliminate its menacing missile force.

Just as Mr. Reagan exerted his leadership in NATO, so too must Mr. Bush.

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