- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

President Bush’s re-election does not seem to have widened the trans-Atlantic rift that developed during the period leading up to the war in Iraq, a new survey shows.

Although half of French and German respondents said Mr. Bush’s re-election would cause relations between the United States and Europe to worsen, the survey sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States shows a modest increase in the desire among residents of those countries to work more closely with the United States .

There was also a decrease in French and German opposition to American leadership in world affairs, compared with June 2004, the survey found. Support for the United States taking a strong role in world affairs has improved by eight percentage points in France and three percentage points in Germany since spring 2004.

The poll was released yesterday, coinciding with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s tour of Europe — including a visit to Berlin and an address in Paris — to repair damaged relations with the European allies.

Though disapproval of Mr. Bush’s foreign-policy decisions remains quite high in Europe, general attitudes toward the United States are not as clear, said Abigail Golden-Vazquez, the German Marshall Fund’s communications director.

“Things just got so bad in the trans-Atlantic relations that people were looking for hope,” Ms. Golden-Vazquez said, pointing out that despite all the negative rhetoric reported by the press, both sides now express a strong desire to work together.

Some have been alarmed by anti-American sentiment in Europe, but disapproval is not a one-way street: Forty percent of Americans surveyed said they disapprove of French President Jacques Chirac’s handling of foreign affairs. Mr. Chirac’s image is worse among Bush voters, with 72 percent of those who voted for Mr. Bush saying they hold negative opinions of the French leader.

Americans are more favorably disposed toward German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who also opposed the U.S. effort in Iraq, but did not come under such heavy public criticism in the United States, Ms. Golden-Vazquez said.

When asked what can help repair relations with Europe, 40 percent of American respondents said building stronger European military capabilities will help, compared with 31 percent citing European support for reconstruction and security efforts in Iraq.

The survey found a high favorable rating for the United Nations and NATO. The United Nations has a 59 percent rating in the United States, 70 percent in France, and 76 percent in Germany.

“Things are different; we don’t know if we’ll ever have the situation during the Cold War when we were always the first-choice partners in everything,” Ms. Golden-Vazquez said. “Things seem to have changed, and it doesn’t look like we are going back to what they were before. But everything is not broken and there are plenty of opportunities, and it even seems that there is a desire to find ways to work together in the future.”

Ms. Golden-Vazquez found some hope in the poll of 1,000 citizens conducted in each country immediately after Mr. Bush’s re-election.

“We are not polling the elites and policy-makers and governments,” she said. “The important things about polling the public is you see where there is room for policy to change — what the leadership can actually sustain politically.”

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