- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 10, 2007

On the two front-burner issues at the Group of Eight Summit this past week in Germany — global warming and U.S.-Russian tensions over a proposed missile-defense system — President Bush played his hand well and came away with two victories for American interests.

For several months prior to the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin had seemed intent on starting a row. In Germany earlier this year he complained that the United States had “overstepped its national borders in every way.” He later made implied comparisons between the United States and the Third Reich. Just recently, Mr. Putin threatened to acquire more targets in Europe if U.S. plans for missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic progressed.

In this context, Mr. Putin’s sudden willingness to cooperate on a missile defense system — although one located in Azerbaijan — is a clear attempt to de-escalate tensions and even smacks of retreat on Mr. Putin’s part. Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did well not to take the rhetorical bait, following instead a firm line while reminding the Russian president that the days of Cold War animosity should be over. Both countries stand to benefit from mutual cooperation, and even though a missile-defense system in Azerbaijan may not be workable, Mr. Putin’s surprising gesture may open the way for a more sensible dialogue focused on what the United States has actually proposed.

On the issue of climate change, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came into the summit with a plan to halve emissions by 2050. Mr. Bush, not willing to commit to any such binding resolution at the summit, proposed last week that the United States, in concert with other large carbon-emitting countries, would agree to long-term goals by the end of next year. The deal reached this week is closer to Mr. Bush’s proposal than to Mrs. Merkel’s, with promises only to “consider seriously” the German chancellor’s proposed target. If rankled, Mrs. Merkel didn’t show it; she publicly lauded the deal as “very great progress and an excellent result.”

The G-8 isn’t the ideal forum to forge a multi-lateral policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions because neither India nor China would be bound by the agreement. China, the world’s second largest greenhouse gas producer, is on pace to surpass the United States as early as this year, warned the International Energy Agency in April. It needs to be included in any meaningful attempt to reduce carbon emissions, and Mr. Bush should consider it another victory that the other G-8 countries accepted this important aspect of his proposal.