- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

Cheap superpower?

A hefty majority of Europeans reject President Bush’s foreign policy and want to become a superpower, but many do not want to pay the cost, according to a survey of nine European countries and Turkey.

The poll of 11,000 citizens of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain found deep suspicion of U.S. leadership in the world, our correspondent Marion Baillot reports.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed disagreed with U.S. foreign policy, an increase of 20 percent over the past two years, according to the survey sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Company of St. Paul, a nonprofit Italian foundation.

The results of the survey, conducted in June and released last week, worried Marshall Fund President Craig Kennedy, an advocate of strong U.S.-European relations.

“If the trend continues, we may be looking at a redefinition of the fundamentals of the trans-Atlantic relationship from a first-choice partnership to an optional alliance when mutually convenient,” he said.

However, he found hope in some parts of the survey, which said about 60 percent of Europeans still believe they share similar values with Americans.

“A strong trans-Atlantic foundation, based on common values and social and economic linkages, continues to drive the relationship,” he said.

The annual Trans-Atlantic Trends survey also polled 1,000 U.S. citizens, who generally expressed stronger support for U.S. relations with Europe. The survey found that 51 percent of Americans endorse Mr. Bush’s foreign policies.

In other findings, 58 percent rejected a strong U.S. leadership in the world and want the European Union to adopt a foreign policy more independent of the United States.

Seventy-one percent want Europe to become a superpower; but, when asked whether they were prepared to pay the cost for a stronger military, 47 percent said no.

All of the countries, except Turkey, are members of the European Union, which spends an annual average of about 1 percent of gross domestic product on defense. The United States spends more than 3 percent.

Piero Gastaldo, secretary-general of the Company of St. Paul, said the survey shows Europeans are “eager to play a stronger global role” but are “unsure how to achieve such new status.”

Reassuring Turkey

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey yesterday tried to reassure the government that the U.S. forces are trying to avoid civilian casualties in a major military assault in an ethnic-Turkish region of Iraq.

“We are carrying out a limited military operation, and we are trying to keep civilian losses to a minimum,” Ambassador Eric Edelman told Turkey’s NTV television network.

“We cannot completely eliminate the possibility [of civilian casualties]. We believe the operation is being conducted with great care.”

U.S. forces opened a major offensive last week near the town of Tal Afar, which is suspected of harboring foreign militants. Turkey says the operation has claimed the lives of 500 Turkmen, but the United States estimated the civilian loss at about 50.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Mr. Edelman yesterday to urge the United States to cease the operation.

“There should not be any civilian casualties. Even a few casualties is unacceptable,” a ministry official told reporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

Ali Tuygan, the ministry’s undersecretary, said Turkey will cooperate with the United States in sending humanitarian aid to the region, about 47 miles from Iraq’s border with Syria.

Mr. Edelman dismissed reports in the Turkish press that said U.S. forces are trying to clear Turkmen out of the area and replace them with Kurds.

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