Morton Halperin :
©International Herald Tribune, August 15, 2001
Trouble Lies Ahead if Bush Fails to Heed European Concerns
NEW YORK The poll released today by the Pew Research
Center, the International Herald Tribune and the Council on
Foreign Relations removes any doubt that large majorities in the
major nations of Western Europe have concerns about President
George W. Bush's policies.
Respondents in Britain, France, Italy and Germany do not express
knee-jerk opposition to all the policies of the Bush administration.
They applaud Mr. Bush's support for free trade and his willingness
to keep American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, which reverses a
campaign promise to begin taking those troops out.
However, echoing the views of their governments, they express
concern about his overall approach as well as his positions on
national missile defense, the Kyoto Protocol and the death penalty.
The poll results on missile defense may pose the greatest challenge
for the Bush administration. European publics may or may not
favor the principle, but overwhelming majorities disapprove of a
deployment that requires withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile
More than seven in 10 German and French respondents and about
two-thirds of the Italian and British respondents share this view.
This means that European governments are unlikely to yield to
administration pressure to go ahead with a missile defense system
if it leads to terminating the ABM Treaty. And it suggests that if
any of these governments do go along, the long dormant European
anti-nuclear movement might come to life with a vengeance.
Missile defense deployment is the quintessential post-Cold War
issue because, as powerful and as rich as the United States is, it
simply cannot proceed on its own. An effective layered national
missile defense, the kind favored by the administration, will require
the cooperation of many other countries in providing bases for
radar and intelligence-gathering systems, as well as for the
deployment of anti-missile launchers or the support for ship-based
systems. And the cooperation of other countries, including Russia
and China, is necessary if states such as North Korea, Iraq and
Iran are to be prevented from developing relatively simple decoys
that would neutralize any small missile defense system.
This may help explain why Bush administration officials who favor
giving early notice to Russia that the United States is withdrawing
from the ABM Treaty have not yet prevailed.
Those who give priority to negotiating an agreement with the
Russian president, Vladimir Putin, should have their hands
strengthened by these poll results, which suggest serious difficulties
for U.S.-European relations, and for an effective anti-missile
deployment, if the administration is seen as cavalierly rejecting the
These problems can be overcome only by reaching agreement
with Russia both on substantially lower levels of nuclear warheads
and on amendments to the ABM Treaty which permit the
deployment of a modest missile defense against potential small
Global warming also poses a serious challenge for the Bush
administration. The majorities concerned about U.S. policy in this
area are even larger than on missile defense, and nothing can be
accomplished without the cooperation of other states. To reduce
tensions over the Kyoto Protocol, the Bush administration will
have to fulfill its commitment to present a proposal on global
warming at the next international meeting. Proponents of this
position within the administration should also be strengthened by
this poll, which leaves no doubt that a continuing rift over this issue
would have a profound impact on the overall relationship between
the United States and Europe.
If one steps back from the most dramatic results of this poll, there
are numbers which point the way to effective cooperation in
solving major global problems. The European publics polled are
unhappy with Mr. Bush because they believe, in overwhelming
numbers, that he makes decisions based only on U.S. interests and
does not understand Europe or take its views into account.
Europeans do not believe that their interests and those of America
are drifting apart.
American and European publics agree in their support of some
Bush administration positions (free trade and Balkan policy), and a
plurality of U.S. respondents also rejects Mr. Bush's policy on the
Kyoto pact. Anyone who believes in the importance of
U.S.-European relations can only hope that the Bush
administration will take these poll results to heart and return to the
principle, articulated by the president in last fall's campaign, that
the United States can accomplish its goals in the world only if it
takes account of the interests of others.
If it does, the administration could attract broad public support for
policies on global warming, missile defense and other issues which
advance the interests of people living on both sides of the Atlantic.
If it does not, the poll results being released today suggest that we
might well be facing a serious deterioration in trans-Atlantic
relations which cannot be ameliorated by traditional diplomacy.
The writer is a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign
Relations. He served in the Johnson, Nixon and Clinton
administrations, most recently as director of the policy
planning staff in the State Department. He contributed this
comment to the International Herald Tribune.