President Bush’s five-day tour of Europe has been heralded as an important step in mending the transatlantic rift. But although heavy on handshakes, formal dinners, and photo ops, both Americans and Europeans want to know if the visit has amounted to anything more than a "charm offensive." Editorialists from across Europe debate this question.
"Beneath the surface smiles and handshakes are some serious and unresolved disagreements and these speak to a wider divergence of interests since 1989 between Europe, pragmatic, prosperous and peaceable, and the US, driven, power-focused and under attack, as the mutual self-interest of the cold war gradually fades…The deeper question now, however, is whether the Bush administration has a strategy that will connect the detailed agenda at which the Brussels speech obviously hints with the powerful rhetoric behind which the president so often hides. There was little in the Brussels speech to compare with the talk in his inaugural last month about the "untamed fire of freedom."
-Martin Kettle, The Guardian, February 22, 2005
"This is a rare moment of fluidity in Washington and on the ground in the Middle East. Europe and the US should seize the opportunities it presents… Co-operation means doing, not just talking. The US should re-engage on climate change, refer Darfur to the International Criminal Court and stop undercutting European diplomacy with Iran. Europe should do more to help Iraq with training, reconstruction and constitution-drafting, and toughen up on Iran to meet the US halfway."
-Editorial, Financial Times, February 21, 2005
"Despite all of the sugar coating the trans-Atlantic relationship has received in recent days, Germany’s foreign policy depends on differentiating itself from the United States. And when Bush leaves Europe, the differences will remain. Indeed, Bush’s idea of a Middle Eastern democracy imported at the tip of a bayonet is, for Schroeder’s Social Democratic Party and his coalition partner the Green Party, the hysterical offspring off the American neo-cons. Even German conservatives find the idea that Arabic countries could transform themselves into enlightened democracies somewhat absurd."
–Claus Christian Malzahn, Spiegel Online, February 23, 2005
"The firm resistance of what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dubbed the "old Europe" was not just about the latter’s opposition to the war and its possible repercussions. Above all, it was about the quality of transatlantic relations. More precisely, it reflected Europe’s reluctance to be downgraded from a strategic partner to that of a US satellite…The obvious question is: On whose terms? In other words, will Washington respond to European demands for a more equal relationship? We will have to wait to see how the US responds to outstanding challenges such as the tug of war over Iran’s alleged nuclear program."
–Editorial, Kathimerini, February 22, 2005
"While many in the United States have grown more skeptical about partnership with Russia, much of the Russian political elite are also more dubious about prospects for partnership with what they see as an increasingly unilateral, aggressive and ideological United States. It is not difficult to imagine some of Putin’s responses in a discussion about values. After all, commitment to multilateralism and international law can also be understood as values… There is an already long and complicated "to-do list" where the two countries have overlapping, if not common, interests that need to be advanced. This list includes securing Russian nuclear weapons and materials, dealing with nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, combating terrorism, securing peace in Middle East, effectively developing Russian energy resources, and many other issues."
–Andrew c= Kuchins, The Moscow Times, February 22, 2005
"If transatlantic relations are genuinely to be transformed they must become more equal, with the development of new frameworks for political, foreign policy and security dialogue. This imperative was stated clearly at yesterday’s summits and is now firmly on the US-EU agenda. That is the most important thing to emerge from these events. It could be a historic change."
-Editorial, The Irish Times, February 23, 2005
"Furthermore, just beyond the obvious limits to the EU’s boundaries are large areas of concern that will require a much more active policy. European governments have accepted that in these areas they cannot wait for the Americans but must take the lead, whether it be in helping Ukraine through its constitutional crisis, brokering a deal with Iran on its nuclear programmes, or pushing resources (as opposed to just rhetoric) towards those trying to promote economic and political reforms in the Middle East, including Palestinian territories. Now it is Washington that has to wonder whether to follow European initiatives (as with Ukraine) or to keep a self-righteous distance (as with Iran)."
–Lawrence Freedman, Financial Times, February 22, 2005