- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trip has spurred a torrent of speculation abroad about what the U.S. outreach means. Will U.S. foreign policy substantively change under President Bush’s second term? Have global conditions evolved to the point where the United States and some countries in Europe are less likely to spar rhetorically?

Miss Rice gave a speech in Paris yesterday, in which she outlined the administration’s foreign policy objectives. Foremost on the list is the situation in Iraq and what Europe can do to help. Miss Rice is traveling at a particularly propitious time. The election in Iraq will give countries like France and Germany, which opposed the war, the political cover to collaborate in a host of non-military ways. Even the French press acknowledged the significance of the election. “The obstinacy that is his strength — and occasionally his weakness, too — served well this time, and it would be difficult, even indecent, to reproach him for having offered free elections to the Iraqis,” Le Monde editorialized.

For the United States, the future role of NATO in training Iraq security forces, in stabilizing Afghanistan, etc., also remains important. America’s military strength, though, is important to Europe on a whole different scale. The U.S. military is a de facto guarantee of survival for Europe, which has spent considerably on social goals but little on defense. The popular Bild tabloid from Germany appeared to refer to that European reliance: German Chancellor “Gerhard Schroeder should know: in the long term, friendly relations with America have a different quality than does, for instance, the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis.”

Europeans were concerned about the zeal with which Miss Rice was advocating the spreading of democracy and freedom in the world, and how evenly the Bush administration would be applying that zeal. “Moralizing foreign policy has always been a dilemma for Washington, because it’s not consistent enough to see it through,” said Germany’s Die Welt. Clearly, many potential sources of U.S.-European discord remain, such as how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the likely sale of European arms to China and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Moscow’s Kommersant expressed a widely held frustration with Miss Rice’s and America’s decisive role in brokering a Middle East peace. Miss Rice met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before traveling to Europe. Although the efforts of any foreign actor, including America’s, have historically had only a limited effect on that process, the paper lamented that “Moscow’s positions have not been consolidated at all,” adding, “the influence of the other members of the [Middle East] quartet — the EU, the UN and Russia — will be reduced to zero.”

There was also broad recognition, noted by German news weekly Der Spiegel and others, that Miss Rice represents a more viable negotiating partner due to her closeness with Mr. Bush. In that regard, trans-Atlantic communication, and U.S. priorities, could be enhanced through Miss Rice’s diplomacy.

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