Bush in Europe

With the completion of his five-day trip through Europe, it appears President George W. Bush has survived his first sojourn onto the international stage. Despite some verbal gaffes – such as describing Africa as a nation – Bush’s first trip was a chance for European leaders and citizens to see close-up the man they have derided. Bush’s casual manner during press conferences and other events might have helped charm some, but Bush should not confuse playful bantering as a sign that the deep divisions between the United States and Europe are somehow now less relevant. This was a good first step for Bush onto the world stage, and now it is important that he not lose the momentum he has gained.

Protesters were found throughout Europe and carried a long list of grievances. One of the bigger issues, alongside the death penalty, U.S. hegemony, globalization and missile defense, was the environment. The Bush administration is now at least willing to admit that global warming – or “climate change,” as they like to call it – is indeed occurring. However, this is clearly not enough to placate European critics who have been angered since March, when the United States walked away from the Kyoto Protocol. Even if Bush did feel Kyoto was too restricting or that it placed a higher burden on the United States, it would have been better to work within the context of the treaty and attempt to make change instead of just abandoning it.

On many issues such as missile defense, it has appeared Bush is taking a unilateral approach, going forward with his plans no matter what. After a NATO meeting, Bush stated, “I hope the notion of unilateral approach died in some people’s minds here. Unilateralists don’t come around the table to listen to others and to share opinion.” This is true. However, it only applies to Bush if he is willing to do more than just listen. Bush can talk to every leader across the world, but he must have an open mind and be willing to change his views if necessary. If he talks to other leaders but still goes ahead without taking into serious consideration their concerns or flat out refusing to change his mind, the label of unilateralist would be deserved.

Bush concluded his five-day trip with a stop in Russia and a friendly meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The United States and Russia have some major issues in front of them, such as NATO expansion and national missile defense, and the good working relationship Bush and Putin seemed to have should be beneficial when they next meet. Russia, alongside Europe and China, should provide a good counterbalance to American influence. The United States can only be made stronger if we have counterweights. Instead of charging forward with any sort of idea, the United States will be forced to contend with other world leaders who bring differing views to the table, and the plans that emerge will be more than just the United States’ view of the world.

Bush must now build on the progress he has made. It is not a time for him to shrink away from the world stage. An increasingly complex world requires intricate solutions that cannot just be decided by one country. As has been shown, issues such as the Kyoto Protocol and missile defense transcend the boundaries of one individual nation. Bush must be willing to work together with others in order to come to the best possible solutions to the problems that we all face.