- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

In the earliest days of the Bush administration, much was made of the fact that President Bush made his first foreign trip to neighboring Mexico. By those who read political tea leaves it was surmised that this could be a deliberate snub to the Europeans, a signal of new hemispheric American priorities. Of course, no snub was intended, but with a European continent dominated by Social Democratic governments, it is perhaps not surprising that a new Republican U.S. administration would find coolness and suspicion on the other side of the Atlantic. Most Europeans, after all, would have by far preferred Al Gore in the White House.
Similarly, the prelude to Mr. Bushs five-country European trip this week has been fraught with discord. It is not just Mr. Bushs rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, elevated by Europeans to semi-religious status, that causes offense and emotional reactions. Even the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the worst mass murderer in U.S. history this Monday has brought widespread tut-tutting, as any American execution would. One does not have to be a fan of the U.S. death penalty to feel that the European sense of moral superiority towards the United States is, generally speaking, misplaced and a tad on the insufferable side. In all, there has been among Europeans a readiness to take offense quite the reverse of the sugary adulation accorded President Clinton.
In fact, Mr. Bushs "grand tour" of the European continent, featuring a country a day, must be seen as quite a profile in courage. He has a risky schedule and a highly ambitious one. How Mr. Bush handles the demonstrations and the criticism, which will surely be articulated even in the higher circles of European diplomacy, will be an omen for future relations. He had better have the suitcase packed with a solid supply of self-confidence.
In a sense, Mr. Bush himself has raised the bar on expectations by packing so many important events into one trip his first NATO summit (Brussels, Wednesday), first EU summit (Sweden, Thursday), first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Slovenia, Saturday). Below are some of the subjects under discussion that should be present in a successful trip:
NATO enlargement. At the meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels tomorrow and in his speech in Warsaw on Friday, the subject of the next round has to be discussed, including possible membership for one or more Baltic countries. The U.S. administration ought to make a firm public commitment to enlargement in 2002.
The European Security and Defense Initiative (ESDI). A recent deal cut with Turkey to tie the ESDI and NATO firmly together organizationally could pave the way for a greater European share of defense responsibility. This would mean that the common British/American view of European security would win out.
Missile defense. There are signs that the German and British governments might be taking a more amenable stance, which would be helpful, given Mr. Bushs pledge to deploy at least a rudimentary system before he leaves office. At least a tacit agreement to work together on missile defense, perhaps linked to arms reduction, would be encouraging.
The environment. Mr. Bushs recent spate of environmental proposals ought to demonstrate at least that his administration is attempting to think outside the Kyoto box. There have been signs, from the French actually, that some countries are willing to consider more acceptable alternatives to the treaty.
Common EU-U.S. initiatives. One possibility would be to work together on the Middle East, a prospect that undoubtedly would be applauded by Palestinians, but not by Israel. Also there will be discussions of trade issues, which is again an area full of banana peels on the floor. While bananas themselves, thank goodness, are no longer the object of contention, U.S. steel import restrictions are heaving ominously into view and could end up before the World Trade Organization.
Even with dissension and squabbling, both sides ought to realize that there are many good reasons to keep the transatlantic relationship in working order. The United States and the European Union have the largest economic relationship in the world. We have the most successful military alliance in the history of alliances. And, undoubtedly, that is because we also have a shared system of values.
As noted recently by Chris Patten, who is currently the European commissioner responsible for external relations, "no one shares our vision, our history, and our values, as much as the United States. With no one else do we have such a wide range of common interests, such a fine-meshed network of cooperation at all levels of society and such a strong economic base to build on." More than most, Mr. Patten has a basis for comparison. He was in charge of handing over the British colony of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Before Americans and Europeans allow their intramural fights to get out of hand, perhaps we should take a look around.

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