Of all the policy pronouncements from Washington recently that
surprised or unnerved Europeans, one phrase struck fear into their
It came from President Bush's lips, as he explained last week
that he was rejecting an international treaty to curb global
warming because he fears it would harm the US economy. "First
things first are the people who live in America," he said.
With that blunt statement, Mr. Bush swept away assumptions that
have underpinned America's relations with its European allies for
the past six decades.
"It looks like total unilateralism, saying 'we don't care at all
what is happening in the rest of the world'," says Michaela
Honicke, a specialist on transatlantic relations at the German
Foreign Policy Society in Berlin.
On Wednesday, European Union leaders called Bush's abandonment of
the Kyoto treaty "completely wrong."
The Texan president heads an administration that seems especially
foreign to European leaders who are accustomed to sharing values
more closely with their most powerful friend.
"I see a potential decoupling between us, not over traditional
foreign policy values, but on more fundamental sociocultural
values," warns Dominique Moisi, an analyst at the French Institute
for International Relations in Paris. "We resent not what America
does, but what America has become, if it is truly represented by
the Bush administration."
It is Bush's decision to abandon the Kyoto protocol on climate
change that has provoked the deepest shock and condemnation. To
Europeans, it appears that Washington is selfishly shirking
America's responsibility as the world's biggest carbon-dioxide
Other incidents over the past 10 weeks have also threatened to
widen the gap between the US and Europe.
Washington's expulsion of 50 Russian diplomats on spy charges
raised the specter of the cold war and caused unease in European
capitals, where politicians prefer to be more understanding of the
wounded giant on their border.
The president's lack of enthusiasm for South Korea's "sunshine
policy" of reconciliation with North Korea has disappointed
European diplomats, who hope that policy will defuse tensions in
The new administration has signaled its determination to press
ahead with a missile-defense shield in the face of European
misgivings about the project's viability and political
Some senior US officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, have voiced hostility to European plans for an autonomous
defense force that would give some military muscle to back up the
continent's economic might.
Europeans have also been struck by signs that Washington does not
plan to take the sort of "hands on" approach to world trouble spots
that became Bill Clinton's hallmark. Politicians in the Middle East
and Northern Ireland, for example, cannot expect such active US
mediation efforts, and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil has indicated
Washington would be less ready to help with financial bailouts such
as those that rescued Mexico and parts of Asia.
Analysts here caution, however, that with many second-tier
administration jobs (and lower) still unfilled, US policy is not set
in stone. "But we certainly have a first impression that is pretty
sobering," says Guillaume Parmentier, director of the Paris-based
French Institute on the United States. …