- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (UPI) — A blue-ribbon panel of foreign journalists Wednesday night cautioned the United States about a distrust of Washington among European countries, telling the Council on Foreign Relations that perceived unilateralism in United States' foreign policy was of particular concern to uneasy Europeans.

"Whatever you (America) do, you will be criticized by the Europeans because there is a certain distrust which is being exploited by the nation states in Europe against Americans," said Ruediger Lentz, German TV's general manager for North America.

Lentz, who is the former bureau chief for Deutsche Welle, said there is in fact a deeply rooted impression of America's unilateralism among his fellow Germans, and that President George W. Bush is seen by many as "a warmonger, a cowboy with a loose cannon."

Although the United States and Europe have historically prided themselves on having shared values, which led to the creation of NATO, Lentz said the ties appeared to be fraying.

"I think this is a mantra which is more or less over, and we should say goodbye to it," Lentz said.

"I think what we have to discuss more properly in the future is where are our common interests, in what political areas, and especially in the areas of the economy as well as security-policy areas," he said. "I think we have much more in common than that which divides us."

Responding to Lentz's comments, another panelist, Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said: "I think the important thing is that the difference is that we (Europe and the United States) are not bound together by a common enemy…. Apparently, the war against terrorism doesn't have the right stuff to bind us in the way that a potential war against the Soviet Union did."

The panel moderator, Martin Walker, United Press International's chief international correspondent, interposed by saying, "So long as al Qaida is smart enough not to start bombing European targets."

Kohut presented an overview of findings from the Pew Center's ambitious 2002 survey, "How Global Publics View: Their Lives, Their Countries, the World, America," which polled around 38,000 individuals in 44 countries.

He said opinions about the United States from the respondents were sometimes contradictory. On the one hand, the United States was celebrated for its technology, science, popular music, television and films. On the other hand, respondents in nearly all of the 44 countries believed that U.S. influence in the world was too great.

Kohut noted that the survey also showed a widespread acceptance of the U.S. role as the lone superpower. For example, 53 percent of those surveyed in Russia said they felt the world was a safer place with just one superpower.

Another panelist, Hafez Al-Mirazi, Washington bureau chief of al Jazeera TV, said Washington should not expect overnight success with its image campaign directed at Muslim and Arab countries.

"Don't expect if Condi (national security adviser Condoleezza) Rice gave al Jazeera an interview, that by the second day all the Arabs are going to wave with the American flags," he cautioned.

A member of the audience, Lincoln Gordon, a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution, said he just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Brazil and found the same concerns about U.S. unilateralism.

"They believe, as a middle-sized power, that a civilized world requires working through multilateral institutions," said Gordon, a former U.S. ambassador to Brazil.

The Council on Foreign Relations is based in New York and is a nonpartisan organization with some 4,000 members. Founded in 1921, the council's goal is to increase America's understanding of the world and to contribute ideas to foreign policy. The council also publishes the authoritative journal Foreign Affairs.

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