- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

MADRID — President Bush yesterday expressed a "renewed commitment to the NATO alliance" and said American troops will stay in the Balkans until the international organization decides to remove them.
Continuing his move away from a campaign vow to tell the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that keeping the peace in the troubled region is a European, not American, responsibility, Mr. Bush yesterday said the United States is "committed to NATO-led operations in Bosnia and Kosovo."
"You will hear me say loud and clear in the Balkans: We came in together; we will leave together," Mr. Bush told European reporters.
The stance differs from that of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who last month said he wants to remove troops from the region because the job was completed three or four years ago. "Am I pushing it?" Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Yes."
On his first stop of a five-day, five-country trip to Europe, Mr. Bush addressed issues that have alarmed Europeans: a U.S. proposal to construct a missile-defense shield and the presidents decision to abandon a restrictive global warming treaty.
His comments yesterday were a preamble to a stop at NATO headquarters in Brussels today and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovenia on Saturday. Mr. Putin opposes the U.S. missile-defense shield, saying it would violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.
"Part of the problem with the ABM treaty is that it prevents a full exploration of possibility. Were bound by a treaty signed in 1972 that prohibits the United States from investigating all possibilities as to how to intercept missiles.
"For example, the technology of intercept on launch is a technology that we must more fully explore in order to make sure that we have the defensive capabilities necessary to prevent what I call blackmail," he said in a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at his compound south of Madrid.
"So part of the reason were having the dialogue in the first place is to enable us to explore all our options so that I can turn to the president of Spain one day and say, 'Our research and development has shown us that not only can we deploy, but effectively deploy."
Mr. Aznar defended the proposal to build what amounts to a purely defensive weapon that the United States vows to share with the world.
"What Im surprised by is the fact that there are people who, from the start, disqualified his initiative and, in that way, they are also disqualifying the deterrence that has existed so far and probably they would also disqualify any other kind of initiative. But what were dealing with here is an attempt to provide greater security for everyone," he said.
Mr. Bush, with an eye toward his meeting tomorrow with leaders of the European Union in Sweden, also yesterday rejected the global warming pact known as the Kyoto treaty as "flawed."
"I think that it set unscientific goals. It didnt include developing countries…Our nation is willing to continue to spend money on science to make sure that any collective approach is one based upon sound science. I did speak out against the Kyoto treaty itself, because I felt the Kyoto treaty was unrealistic, was not based upon science," said Mr. Bush, who announced on Monday new studies on global warming.
The European Union, which criticized Mr. Bush after he announced the United States would give up on the Kyoto treaty, served notice from Brussels that U.S. allies reject the U.S. presidents new initiatives on climate change, calling them "short on action."
After Mr. Bush met with Mr. Aznar, the two leaders released a joint statement that "expresses a renewed commitment to the NATO alliance and a readiness to respond to any new threats."
Noting the upcoming NATO meeting, Mr. Bush said: "Tomorrows meeting is very important because it will reassure, I hope, our friends in NATO that this government remains strongly committed to NATO, our troop presence in NATO, our making sure NATO is not weakened in any way."
White House officials said yesterday Mr. Bushs comments do not conflict with those of the defense secretary. They said Mr. Bush plans to talk today of "solidarity with our allies" but will propose "creating conditions for troop reduction in the region."
They point to periodic reviews of troop deployment, the last of which led in March to a reduction of 750 troops. And they noted the joint communique by Mr. Bush and Mr. Aznar agrees to "work with our allies to transfer responsibilities for public security from combat forces to specialized units and international police, and ultimately to local authorities."
Still, Mr. Bushs comments yesterday differ greatly from his campaign pledges. Since becoming president, he has not advocated a unilateral withdrawal from the region.
Before last falls election, Condoleezza Rice, now the presidents national security adviser, floated a proposal under which peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo would become a European responsibility, as would such missions in other conflicts. The United States, on the other hand, would focus on deterring and fighting wars in the Persian Gulf, Asia and other trouble spots.
In an October debate with former Vice President Al Gore, who advocated extending the peacekeeping mission in the Balkans, Mr. Bush said, "I hope that they put the troops on the ground so that we can withdraw our troops and focus our military on fighting and winning war."
Bush officials went to great lengths to assure allies the March reduction was not a unilateral move toward withdrawing from the Balkans. Mr. Bush did so again yesterday.
"This week Ill be meeting with two great institutions of Europe, NATO and the European Union, to affirm our common purposes and to chart our path ahead of us. Europe has often had a history of division and conflict, but Europe today is writing a new story, a story of democratic progress, economic reform and ethnic tolerance."
Speaking a day after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed, Mr. Bush also addressed the issue of the death penalty — lawful in the United States but banned in the European Union.
"I understand others dont agree with this position," the president said.
"The democracies in Europe reflect the will of the people of Europe. That doesnt mean we cant be friends. That doesnt mean we cant work in common areas of importance to our people. And thats the spirit in which I come to Europe."

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