News

Few Surprises in Bush Speech for Europe

Multimedia

Audio

Most European commentators who watched President Bush's State of the Union speech say it contained few surprises, but it amplified some of the foreign policy themes Mr. Bush touched upon in his inaugural address last month. Europeans say they will be asking visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to clarify U.S. intentions toward Iran over the next few days.

Mr. Bush's State of the Union address was mainly focused on domestic U.S. issues like the need to reinvent the country's retirement system. But he also had strong words for Iran, which he labeled the world's primary state sponsor of terror.

Euro-American differences over how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions are likely to be topic number one on Ms. Rice's agenda as she visits several European capitals in the next week.

The Europeans welcome her first trip as Secretary of State as an effort to mend ties with allies that were strained over the Iraq War. European diplomats say they sense the second Bush administration is ready to engage more with Europe.

Knowing that Ms. Rice is much closer to the president than her predecessor, Colin Powell, they are hoping that she will make clear how Washington intends to deal with Iran.

Europe's Big Three - Britain, France and Germany - say they will not support any military strike to halt what the United States insists is Iran's program to develop nuclear weapons. The Europeans are using a diplomatic approach to try to persuade Iran to permanently stop enriching uranium through a series of trade and political incentives.

In his address, Mr. Bush talked of working with the Europeans. But he has in the past refused to rule out strikes against Iran. And Vice-President Dick Cheney has said Israel might act first to eliminate any nuclear threat from Iran.

Tim Hames, an expert on U.S. politics at British research institute Oxford Analytica, says he was struck by Mr. Bush's warnings to Iran and Syria to stop helping terrorists and by his promise to stand by the Iranian people if they demand more freedom from their rulers. But he says the president was much less combative on the subject of Iran than in the past.

"Rather than saying 'do this or else' to those regimes, it was more 'do this' with 'or else' hanging out there," said Tim Hames. "He talked very tough on Iran, but never deviated from the script that he was working with the European Union to try to persuade Teheran to do various things he wanted. He did make that direct appeal to the Iranian people, but that was really a piece of, I think, political theater, quite cheeky political theater. It did not, again, commit him to too much."

Public-opinion polls show that many Europeans, now that the elections in Iraq have been relatively successful, believe that the time has come for Washington to begin planning its withdrawal from the country. But Mr. Bush made it clear he would not end the American military presence there until the Iraqis are able to fight the insurgency on their own.

Matthias Matusek, an editor at the German news magazine Der Spiegel, says the fact that the elections are over does not mean that things are getting any better in Iraq.

"I think he might have been in danger of overselling a little bit the Iraq election," said Matthias Matusek. "Of course, it is a triumph. It is a victory that there have been elections. But nobody knows how that will turn out in the long term."

Despite Mr. Bush's focus on reshaping the social security retirement system during his speech, analyst Tim Hames, at Oxford Analytica in Britain, argues that the president's success in garnering support for bold domestic reforms depends on what happens in Iraq.

"In truth, Iraq is the centerpiece of Bush, both at home and abroad," said Tim Hames. "It might seem insane that there is a link between social security and Iraq, but there is, because if Iraq is perceived as a relative success, Bush's numbers will go up at home. His leverage on his own party and Democratic waverers becomes that much stronger. If it fails, his ability to persuade people to follow him ... becomes considerably diminished."

As Secretary Rice looks to traditional allies for commitments of support for Iraq to help it become self-sufficient in its security, some European diplomats suggest that in exchange Europe should demand that the Bush administration put more pressure on Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank.

But they say that is not likely to happen at this stage. And though both sides of the Atlantic are determined to put their differences over the Iraq War behind them, these diplomats say it will still take time for trans-Atlantic trust to be restored.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs