- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2001

President Bush is maintaining a pragmatic distance in his approach to the world, analysts said after watching his performance in four vital areas: China, the Middle East, the Balkans and Russia.
The effort to be less directly involved in daily events in every corner of the world reflects a desire to separate this administration from the Clinton teams nannylike involvement in crises from the Middle East to Asia, said Ivo Daalder, a former Clinton administration official now working at the Brookings Institution.
Kim Holmes, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, said the Bush foreign policy team was "more realistic, more professional than what we were seeing before."
Mr. Holmes discounted those who said Mr. Bushs lack of engagement overseas was a mistake, saying Mr. Bush was wise to stay in the background during the crisis over Chinas detention of 24 U.S. servicemen and women after the collision of their surveillance plane with a Chinese fighter jet.
Mr. Bush brought in a team of "adults" with experience at decision-making in foreign policy, but they had been out of power for eight years during which the world had greatly changed, said Mr. Daalder.
Bush foreign policy aides such as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld brought with them a world view embedded in the Cold War. Miss Rice, for example, said in an interview shortly before taking office that she viewed Russia as a threat to Europe.
Indeed, the administrations relationship with Russia started badly, the low point being the U.S. expulsion of 50 Russian diplomats for spying. The Russians expelled 50 Americans in return.
The Bush team has largely viewed Russia as a proliferater of weapons to Iran, and its economy as a basket case. Only last week did the picture improve with planning for a direct meeting between Mr. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
U.S.-Russian relations "are back on track," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
On the Balkans, Mr. Bush said during the campaign that he might pull U.S. troops out of Bosnia and Kosovo. But when an ethnic Albanian rebellion threatened Macedonia recently, the United States played an active role in supporting the Macedonians.
Mr. Bush also said during the campaign that he would treat China as a "strategic competitor," shifting away from the Clinton view of China as a "strategic partner." Some analysts said that set the stage for testy negotiations following the midair collision off Chinas coast.
"The Bush foreign policy is still emerging," said Robert Gallucci, dean of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.
"But it seems to be fulfilling a promise to be less engaged whether in the Middle East or in cooperation with other countries to deal with climate change," he said, "Theres less of an internationalist tone so far, it seems.
"While I may be unhappy about the Middle East and [the global warming treaty signed in] Kyoto, I am unambiguously unhappy about his decision not to engage the North Koreans and not to find out what is on their mind."
Mr. Gallucci was the principal U.S. negotiator of the 1994 U.S.-North Korean Nuclear Framework Accord in which the North froze its suspected nuclear weapons program in return for fuel oil and a promise of twin nuclear energy plants from the United States, South Korea and Japan.
Mr. Daalder said the Bush team sees the outside world as full of threats and sees engagement abroad as a way to deal with those threats, not as a way to take advantage of opportunities to improve the world.
The one exception is Mr. Bushs support for free trade, which was the focus of his weekend trip to Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas.
Aside from free trade, the Bush foreign policy team largely views Russia and China as threats, the Balkans as a drain on U.S. troops and the Middle East as a potential powder keg that could cut oil supplies and spark anti-American terrorism, said analysts.
When real crises struck, however, such as Chinas detention of the 24 crew members aboard the U.S. surveillance plane, the Bush team dropped its ideology in favor of pragmatism, said Mr. Daalder.
After Mr. Bush made early, public and strident demands that China return the fliers, he retreated and allowed the secretary of state, Colin Powell, to carefully craft expressions of "regret," which resolved the crisis and led the Chinese to return the crew.
Mr. Holmes said the Bush team has made a major shift in the way it deals with foreign policy by using the machinery of the State Department instead of special, high-level envoys favored by Mr. Clinton.
"You keep the president in reserve and dont engage his prestige or escalate unnecessarily. You use one person such as Colin Powell to speak to the public," he said.

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