- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

President Bush must hold hands and stiffen spines this week as he faces a delicate diplomatic task at the first post-September 11 Group of Eight summit at a remote resort in the Canadian Rockies.
Mr. Bush said last week he will be looking for a clear show of solidarity from the world's leading industrial powers in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. But he also will face concerns, particularly in Europe, about U.S. unilateralist tendencies and the focus on security and anti-terrorism matters to the virtual exclusion of other concerns.
The host government of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien officially has highlighted aid to Africa as the dominant theme of the annual meeting.
But the transformed international landscape after the September 11 attacks, the multiple Middle East crises and the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan are expected to claim a major portion of the leaders' attention in the two-day summit that begins Wednesday.
The G-8 nations "are kind of looking at the United States, and if I blink, it's likely they'll go to sleep," Mr. Bush said in a speech Wednesday. "So we've got to stay strong and determined to lead to lead the world to defend our freedoms and I'll do just that."
But the administration's desire to present a united front may clash with rising unease among key U.S. allies about its prosecution of the war on terror, in particular the stance outlined in Mr. Bush's June 1 speech at West Point, promising pre-emptive action against terrorist groups and rogue states seeking nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.
James B. Steinberg, a top security aide to President Clinton and now head of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said it is "extremely important for the president to come out of this meeting with a clear sense that this is a fight of all civilized countries against an extreme movement that is not acceptable to anyone."
"It's not a place where he can afford to have big disagreements about issues," Mr. Steinberg added.
Despite the informal atmosphere that the Canadian organizers have worked to promote, Mr. Bush may not get a free pass from his peers.
"In the United States, the terrorism fight is seen as a war, but you don't get the same sense in Europe," said Ognyan Minchev, head of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, a think tank in Sofia, Bulgaria. "In Europe, the terrorism threat is seen as a problem, yes, but one problem among many."
Analysts said the other G-8 nations also will be looking for clear signals from Mr. Bush on the administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the president's perceived threat from Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Chretien hopes to devote one full day of the summit to the problems of poverty and disease in Africa, despite a deep division between Washington and many of its allies over the best way to promote growth on the world's poorest continent.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan increased the pressure on the G-8 leaders last week, warning in an open letter that "the peoples of the developing world would be bitterly disappointed if your meeting confined itself to offering them good advice and solemn exhortation, rather than firm pledges of action."
Six African leaders have been invited to meet with the G-8 leaders in Canada.
In the days leading up to the summit, the Bush administration has taken several steps to deflect criticism that it is focused exclusively on security issues.
Mr. Bush last week proposed a $300 million increase in programs to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, and introduced a plan to double education aid to Africa by $200 million over five years. G-8 foreign ministers meeting this month announced progress in adding new money to the World Bank fund for poor countries and in forgiving their existing debts.
Topping the list of concrete U.S. initiatives in Canada is a proposal to increase funding for nuclear nonproliferation efforts in Russia and to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorist groups and hostile regimes.
The administration's "10 plus 10 over 10" program calls for each of the G-8 nations except Russia to contribute $10 billion over the next decade for nonproliferation programs. The proposal faces skepticism from several G-8 leaders, and may not be accepted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Economic and trade matters are expected to take up a minor share of the leaders' attention, despite the slumping Japanese economy, doubts about the strength of the American recovery and the plunge in the value of the U.S. dollar.
Mr. Bush will arrive in Canada with a relatively weak hand after nearly a decade in which the U.S. economy was the G-8's star performer. He so far has failed to get congressional authority to negotiate new free-trade deals, and leading U.S. trading partners remain angry over his decisions to protect American steel makers and farmers.
Issues concerning Iraq and the dollar are more likely to surface in private bilateral meetings Mr. Bush plans with several of his G-8 counterparts, but the president's overriding priority will be to leave the summit no worse off on the security front.
"I don't think the president is looking to pick a lot of fights at this meeting," said Mr. Steinberg at Brookings.

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