Saturday :: Nov 6, 2004

When Old Friends Choose Different Sides

by pessimist

I've been saying for a while now that the sages of Europe would be soon seeing reason and begin to distance themselves from the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse and its policies of world domination. From these articles all datelined this week, it looks like I made the right prediction.

After listening to the yapping of George Wolfhound Bu$h'$ lap poodle, Tony Blair, the hounds of Europe appear to be packing around the Dogs of Confrontation. It's beginning to look like Europe will once again have to deal with a continent divided between ancient rivals France and England, with few countries standing with the Bulldog.

Wake up to new reality, Blair tells Europeans

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said European leaders must face up to the 'new reality'. Speaking at a European Union summit, Blair said he was not pointing fingers at any one country, after France and Germany led EU opposition to the US-led war in Iraq. "What I’m really trying to say is, we’ve got to move on, there’s a new reality, so let’s work with that reality,” he told reporters after meeting Iraqi interim leader Iyad Allawi before the summit’s second day. “We’ve a situation now where President Bush has been re-elected," Blair said. "He’s now there for the next four years and my sense just in talking to European leaders here overnight is that people do understand this is the reality, and it’s important that we work with the Americans and of course with the Iraqi government to bring that stability to Iraq."

EU anger over Blair 'wake up' call

French President Jacques Chirac countered that the EU needed to reinforce its own unity in a world which he said was increasingly divided. While the Prime Minister claimed to have detected a readiness among his European colleagues to rebuild bridges with Washington, Mr Chirac pointedly stressed the need to develop EU cohesion in a 'multi-polar' world. "Europe today has more than ever the need, the necessity, to reinforce itself and its dynamism and unity," he said. "That is the goal of the [EU] constitution in a world that is more multi-polar than ever."

Blair's call to accept Bush scorned by Chirac
Rifts likely to remain as French president says world is more multi-polar than ever

A day dominated by Mr Bush's re-election, unwelcome to most Europeans, began with Mr Blair's blunt message that some Europeans were in "denial" and had failed to come to terms with the events of the last few months. He urged the EU to work with "a new reality" and both the US and rest of the world to "listen to each other".

Mr Chirac, who left early to attend the funeral of the ruling sheikh in the United Arab Emirates, brutally crushed questions about Mr Blair's comments. "It is clear that Europe, now more than ever, has the need, the necessity, to strengthen its dynamism and unity when faced with this great world power," he said. He added: "That's the goal of the constitution in a world that's more multi-polar than ever ... We must reinforce Europe politically and economically and make sure European cohesion is seen as an international reality."

Money Talks. Bu$h ...

This isn't going to help relations any!

The French president issued sharp criticism of the Bush administration's decision to let the US dollar slide on the foreign exchanges, saying this damaged EU exports and would require political intervention with the aid of the European Central Bank.

French call for stronger EU to keep America in check

Tony Blair's hopes of healing the rift between Europe and America after the re-election of President George W Bush were quickly dashed yesterday, as France led calls for a rival European superpower to confront Washington.

"Old Europe's" political class seized on the election result to press for stronger EU institutions to counter US domination.

Calls for Europe to accelerate its defence and foreign policy plans came from across the political spectrum yesterday.

Reacting to Mr Bush's victory, Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said four more years of a unilateralist administration in Washington required Europe to develop its own diplomatic and defence machinery. "Our world needs several powers. We are in the process of gathering the pieces and the will to become another power," he said.

Uniting, Not Dividing ... The Opposition

Graham Watson, MEP, the leader of the European Liberal group, said Mr Bush had the effect of drawing Europeans together, making them more conscious of their own distinctive moral brand and view of the world. "There are clear differences over Kyoto, the international criminal court, not to mention Iran and North Korea. There is a heightened perception that Europe is becoming a community of values rather than just a market, which is going to force Britain to decide which side of the Atlantic it is on," he said.

The European constitution signed with a fanfare in Rome last week creates a European foreign minister backed by an EU diplomatic service. Brussels [Belgium] already has a large military staff to co-ordinate a 60,000-man rapid reaction force which has been used in Balkans and central Africa.

The Norwegian prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, said the outcome of the US election made it more likely his country would join the EU after holding out for 30 years. He said the unilateralist policies of the Bush administration were driving Europe and America apart, making it harder for Norway to straddle the two blocs. "This debate is going to be opened up if the US continues to pursue a policy in which little importance is given to its alliance with Europe," he said.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, said Mr Bush's victory made "Europe's role as a counterweight to the US ever more important".

Following confirmation of the US election result Goran Persson, the Swedish prime minister said it was inevitable that European politicians would continue to criticise Mr Bush. "But I do not believe he will more willing to listen," he said.

Do you hear what I hear?

EU 'triple axis' gangs up on Blair

France, Spain and Germany launched a "triple axis" yesterday aimed at taking charge of EU foreign policy and limiting Tony Blair's influence in Europe. The "Old Europe" trio of France, Germany and Spain appeared deeply stung by Mr Blair's comments that some European leaders were "in denial" about this week's events in America. Mr Blair told them to face up to the reality of Mr Bush's re-election and "move on". He said: "He is there now for four years. I'm not going to point fingers at people but we have got to move on. There is a new reality."

Jacques Chirac, the French president and a harsh critic of the war in Iraq, brushed aside appeals for better transatlantic ties after George W Bush's re-election triumph and instead called for a stronger EU to confront Washington. Warning of a "more multi-polar world than ever", he said America's assertive policies made it crucial for Europe to pull closer together as a single power bloc. "Europe today has more than ever the need and necessity to reinforce its unity - that is the goal of the constitution," he said, attending a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Clearly irked, Mr Chirac met Germany's Gerhard Schröder and Spain's Jose-Luis Zapatero in an early morning private session - without Mr Blair - to agree their response to the US election result. The three agreed to attend rallies to boost support for the EU constitution in France and Spain, where referendums will be held. The document, which creates an EU foreign minister and diplomatic service, equips Europe with superpower institutions and is viewed as a means to counter American domination.

A majority of the EU's 25 states supported the invasion of Iraq, though many did so with a heavy heart and enthusiasm is now dwindling fast.

And the pace of the swindling is accelerating.

Hungary may speed up troops withdrawal

Several countries in the region, famously dubbed "new Europe" by the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, for their support of US policies, appear to be getting cold feet about their commitments in Iraq, eroding the broad coalition that George Bush claimed he had assembled. The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, went to Budapest this year and pleaded for the central Europeans not to go "weak in the knees".

The numbers involved may be small, but they are cumulative. The Bulgarians, Moldova, Ukraine and perhaps some of the Baltic countries are all trying to reduce their troops in Iraq. The key country, however, is Poland where around 70% of those surveyed in opinion polls said they wanted the troops brought home.

The most important US regional ally, Poland, with almost 2,500 troops in Iraq and in command of a sector of the country, is to start scaling back its presence from January, and hopes to have fully withdrawn its forces by the end of next year. The government of the prime minister, Marek Belka, who worked as economic supremo for the US coalition authority in Iraq before becoming a caretaker head of government this year, has said it wants the troops home next year and is to start cutting down after the Iraqi elections in January. Mr Belka faces elections in May and the centre-right opposition, expected to win, is against the Iraq mission. The Poles have lost several soldiers in Iraq and a Polish woman is being held hostage there. Poland's plans to limit its exposure in Iraq were upset by the withdrawal of the Spanish contingent last summer, since the Spaniards were supposed to take over the sector commanded by the Poles.

Hungary may pull several hundred soldiers out of Iraq within weeks - and months ahead of schedule - the government in Budapest announced yesterday as several US allies in eastern and central Europe mulled over their options in Iraq. In one of his first acts as Hungary's prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, a millionaire leftwinger, said on Wednesday that he would withdraw the country's 300 soldiers from Iraq by March. But yesterday he told a press conference in Budapest that the troops could be home by the end of the year unless the opposition, fiercely opposed to the deployment, agreed to the extension. Two out of three Hungarians are against their country's deployment and the main opposition party, Fidesz, is insisting that the troops are home by Christmas.

The Czech Republic yesterday agreed to keep 100 police officers helping to train an Iraqi police force in Iraq until February. But they are then expected to be brought home. The Czech parliament yesterday voted to extend the mission of 100 police in Iraq by two months, until the end of February. But the defence minister, Karel Kuehnl, has made clear that he does not want the police units to remain beyond then. If the Czechs are still needed to train Iraqi police, he argued, the training could be done in the Czech Republic.

Bulgaria, too, announced a 1% cut in its contribution to the coalition forces in Iraq.

The Netherlands, like Poland a strongly Atlanticist EU member, is also planning to pull its force of 1,400 out.

The Netherlands has a terrorism crisis underway as I write this. The Dutch government may decide that their troops are needed at home far more than they can be spared for Iraq.

Here's a bit about the less-than-friendly sentiments Europeans have toward Bu$hCo:

EUROPE'S VIEW: We Have To Talk

It is hard to overstate the sense of shock across much of Europe at the popular mandate that Americans have given George W. Bush, even if the result itself was no great surprise. One Norwegian designer working in London's Notting Hill shared with me her immediate sense of alarm, "It's going to be like World War III, isn't it? Everyone says so."

As the president's victory was confirmed, those on the left-of-center in Europe, who have supplied the loudest opposition to the Iraq war, competed to pronounce on the disaster. Hubert Vedrine, France's former Socialist foreign minister, said the result showed that "there is a major and lasting lack of understanding between the American people and the rest of the world."

Britain's New Statesman magazine, with close links to Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party, rushed out a cover saying simply "Oh No!" The front page of the left-wing Daily Mirror asked: "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"

For the 25 leaders of the European Union countries, those furious reflexes are not an option. The election result shows that Bush was not an accidental president. The Iraq war was not just a whim of his cronies; a majority of Americans, in effect, has now endorsed it. Waiting to see if Bush would simply go away, as many European leaders had hoped, has not worked. They will have to deal with him.

When they met in Brussels on Thursday for a long-planned dinner, they scrapped the usual wrangles over farm subsidies and immigration rules to talk about how to do so. With difficulty, is the answer, although Bush's reelection presents very different problems for those leaders who supported him and those who fervently did not.

It is a frequent misperception among many in the United States, I have found, that the whole of Europe (apart from Blair) hates Bush. In fact, the Iraq war split Europe deeply. True, polls have shown that most people in most European countries opposed the war. But 12 of the 25 governments backed Bush and sent troops at some point, even if just a few dozen in some cases. Six of those countries, headed by Poland, were from the former communist countries of Eastern Europe that joined the European Union in May. They have shown an instinctive liking for the United States, springing from their antipathy to Moscow, that counterbalances the suspicion of "Old Europe."

These leaders who backed Bush -- and, of course, Blair above all -- now find themselves vulnerable due to a surge of anti-American feeling that has become a real political force, as recent polls show. European leaders who supported Bush cannot dismiss the anti-American pressures. They have in front of them the sobering example of Spain, where voters threw out Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar after the Madrid train bombings. Spaniards appeared to feel that he had made them a target without justification by sending troops to Iraq. The new Spanish prime minister promptly pulled them out. Public pressure and dismay about the course of the war prompted Hungary and the Netherlands to say last week that their troops will leave Iraq in the spring. The Czech Republic has already said the same.

Beware, Tony Blair!

It is noticeable even in Britain, where it has often been an audible undercurrent, more on the left than the right, but is now the staple of conversation. In the Labor Party, the war has stirred up a barely dormant hostility to the United States. Ever since Vietnam, it has been easy to raise a cheer at the party's annual conference with a dig at the Americans. Blair has managed to contain the opposition within his own party, but is forced constantly to defend his position, unable to switch the focus to domestic policy. His decision last month to send the Black Watch, the revered Scottish army regiment, into a dangerous zone of Iraq to relieve U.S. troops triggered a new, fierce row in parliament. Blair was accused of risking British lives to help Bush's campaign. The deaths of three Black Watch soldiers last Thursday, the first of the regiment killed in combat in Iraq, was front-page news across Britain.

The Effects on 'Ye Olde Europe'

For France and Germany, the leaders of Europe's antiwar bloc, Bush's victory presents different problems. They have everything to gain now by sounding pragmatic, and that, indeed, has been the predominant tone. One French official called Bush "the devil we know well," and said, "We did not think that things would have changed much with Kerry." The center-left Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper captured the German resignation with the headline "Mit Bush leben lernen" (Learning to Live With Bush). But the pragmatism barely conceals the coolness underneath. There are signs, in fact, that the French tactic in Bush's second term may be one of careful ambivalence. On one hand, his reelection suits President Jacques Chirac, in that it allows Chirac to continue presenting himself as an alternative moral beacon. The flamboyance with which he pursued that role in the runup to the war has made him well-known within the United States -- rare for a European politician.

On the other hand, playing that role has done France no favors in Europe. Chirac misjudged the extent to which the new, pro-American members of the European Union would contradict him. On many fronts France, one of the Union's founders, now finds itself subtly undermined. The attitudes of European countries will be flushed out into the open within weeks. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has summoned an international conference for Nov. 22 to talk about rebuilding Iraq. It is unlikely, to put it mildly, that France and Germany will take a significant part.

The next showdown with Iran is a few days afterwards, when the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet in Vienna to decide if Iran has done enough to allay fears about its nuclear research. The United States, which wants Iran referred to the United Nations Security Council at that meeting, has argued that the attempt by Britain, France and Germany to strike a deal is likely to fail.

Finally, there is the Middle East, one of Blair's central passions in foreign policy. He told his party's annual conference in September that once the U.S. elections were over, he would tell Washington it was time for another attempt to advance the peace process. But the European keenness for talking about final status solutions is a long way from the cool reserve of the U.S. position.

These points of difference were there already. The election does nothing to make matters any worse. Indeed, if there is a new tone of conciliation, it comes from the recognition that Bush is not a temporary aberration. That may even create a new willingness to work together, but it will in itself not be enough to wipe out the anti-Bush feeling that is now so strong across much of Europe.

These anti-American feelings are all due to Bu$h'$ unilateralist stance on world affairs. If he were to alter this, he just might have taken the biggest step toward healing the divisions, as this article hints:

Europe wants Bush to pursue peace

PRESIDENT George W. Bush can expect relations with Europe to thaw as he heads into his second term. However, he will face greater pressure to forge peace in the Middle East and end the war in Iraq, European leaders and political analysts said yesterday.

As Mr Bush declared victory, there was no mistaking a mood of disappointment around Europe. The U.S. President has been highly unpopular, particularly over the war in Iraq. Political analysts and newspaper editorials yesterday warned the world could face greater danger if Mr Bush interprets his victory as a mandate for military adventurism and confrontation with his opponents in Europe. "Of course, many in Britain will be dismayed by the prospect of a victory for Mr Bush. But although he is not naturally a magnanimous man, Mr Bush must know that in a second term he needs to deliver the role of `uniter not divider' promised in his first election campaign," said an editorial in London's Evening Standard. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it added, "has been one of Mr Bush's few admirers in his first term; in a second, the President will need to mend fences with the rest of the world".

One of the quickest ways to achieve that goal would be to reformulate policy on Iraq, said Gary Samore, director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "There is a consensus in the U.S. foreign policy and defence establishments that the occupation of Iraq . . . has failed, has become counterproductive in terms of stabilising Iraq, in terms of defeating the terrorist threat," he said. "Therefore, the U.S. needs to seek some kind of an exit strategy."

Mr Blair's former chief aide, Alastair Campbell, said it was payback time for the prime minister, given the political sacrifices he made defending Mr Bush's policies in Iraq. "The reality is . . . Tony has taken a big political hit as a result of what is perceived to be a strong relationship with President Bush," Mr Campbell said. What Mr Blair wants in return, he added, was heavy U.S. arm-twisting to impose a durable peace process between Israel and Palestine.

Other European leaders called for an end to trans-Atlantic divisions. "We need a United States that involves all its allies and partners more closely," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark. He said terror could only be defeated when there was peace in the Middle East.

French President Jacques Chirac shrugged off years of bitter divisions with Washington and stressed the need for a "spirit of dialogue, esteem and mutual respect".

Somehow, though, I think we can count on George Wordmangler Bu$h not to do the right thing. He will instead do the Right-wing thing - an action that will bode ill for the entire world. Here's some thoughts from around the globe on the electoral results - and what Bu$h will do with it:

A divided world reacts to US election


Israel reacted with evident contentment to the prospect of a second Bush term while stressing the notable lack of difference between the stated stances of the two presidential candidates over the conflict with the Palestinians. The diplomatic response came as officials moved to play down the conclusions of a leaked pre-election Foreign Ministry report suggesting that for different reasons both President Bush and Senator Kerry would step up pressure on Israel to pave the way for peace negotiations in the election. The leaked Israeli report had implied that Mr Bush would moderate his support for Israel and press for a resumption of the peace process - partly to restore the US's image in the Arab world. A senior official questioned the view that as a second-term President without electoral worries, Mr Bush was more likely to set tighter limits on the US's support for Israel, and welcomed the "continuity" afforded by George W Bush's re-election.

Among most Palestinians who expressed a view, Senator Kerry had been the preferred choice because of what they saw as President Bush's unequivocal support for Israel and because of the war in Iraq. But the majority among members of the Palestinian public questioned yesterday in the West Bank professed indifference to the outcome.


The European Commission President, Romano Prodi, coupled his good wishes with a call to respect multilateral principles, a less than subtle reference to accusations of American unilateralism. Mr Prodi said: "Europe will continue to work to strengthen its bonds of friendship and co-operation with the United States. Those bonds, which have never been called into question, are vital to maintaining peace in the world on the basis of multilaterally shared principles and values."

Paris and Berlin are waiting to see if Mr Bush makes any overtures to try to improve relations. Privately some diplomats said that the re-election of President Bush will reduce pressure on France and Germany, which opposed the war in Iraq, to increase their help there. Had John Kerry won, Paris and Berlin would have felt a greater obligation to increase their commitments and, in the long run, even send troops. By coincidence, Hungary announced yesterday that it would pull its 300 troops out of Iraq by March next year.

Meanwhile Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, argued: "In the next four years the role of the European Union as a counterweight to the US will become ever more important. Only a strong, united Union that is able to act decisively when needed, will be capable of fulfilling this task."


Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the Rifondazione Comunista, said a Bush victory was "a dramatic moment: the victory of the war party, a difficult moment for the human race." Another leftwinger, Giovanna Melandri, drew crumbs of comfort from the narrowness of Kerry's defeat, because "Bush has failed...he has not capitalised on the consensus he enjoyed."


In France, the results of the presidential election are seen as final confirmation that America is indeed no longer the country that Europeans wish it was. Many also view the outcome as a call to action in the cause of a stronger EU to counterbalance an increasingly headstrong superpower.

"Many observers believe America's political choices were a result of President Bush. What we see today is that these choices are in fact supported by a majority of Americans," said Francois Bayrou of the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) which is part of Chirac's coalition. "What that means is that there is great mutual incomprehension between the two sides of the Atlantic...and that to face a more determined America, we need a strong Europe," he said.


A lively debate was waged in the city's political salons over which American candidate would be best for Afghanistan. Some had felt that a Bush defeat might have meant a pullout of US troops, dreaded because of fears warlords would then fight among themselves again, while others believed a President Kerry would have reinvigorated the fight against al Qaeda in the region. Government official Mohammed Qaseem, meanwhile, said: "Kerry would have been good for Afghanistan; he would have kept the focus on this country. Bush is only interested in Iraq." One Taleban supporter grimly remarked "A black dog is no better for Afghanistan than a grey wolf; both want to fight over our bones."


The Iraqi people, whose country has played a crucial part in this election, greeted George Bush's re-election in a muted and somewhat resigned manner. "The extremists will take over", teacher Sabira Latif said. " The Americans shouldn't have come. But now they are here, they should stay."

Most were too busy coping with the deadly daily diet of car bombings and mortar and gun attacks and the state of near anarchy following the invasion Bush ordered. Mohammed Al-Razzak, opening his shop in the Baghdad suburb of Karada, said "Our problems began with the war Bush gave us. We have lost our security, our peace of mind. If Kerry had won, maybe we could have had peace. But now we shall have more and more violence".

Some saw conflict without end. Asked how he viewed the prospect of Mr Bush getting four more years, Selim Abbas Ahmed, a 39-year-old engineer, responded "Don't you mean four more wars?"

Sheikh Khalid al-Jumaili, the chief negotiator representing the people of Fallujah in talks with Iraq's interim government, said "If there is the slightest possibility of a change of policy in Iraq, it would have been with Kerry ".


Several German politicians reflected widespread popular dismay at the Bush victory yesterday. Michael Muller, the deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's ruling Social Democrats described President Bush as a "fundamentalist" and added "If he wins it will be neither good for the world, nor for democratic America."

The Greens agreed, with Hans-Christian Stroble, the deputy parliamentary leader of Mr Schroder's Green coalition partners saying: "A Bush victory would make my worst dreams come true. It would be a belated justification for the Iraq war from American voters and that would be a black day for peace".


Blair allies insisted the result provided an "opportunity" for the British Prime Minister to use his position as the President's closest overseas ally to secure America's support for a new push on the Middle East peace process. Privately, Mr Blair would have preferred a John Kerry victory, which could have provided a fresh start on the international agenda and helped him to end the damaging rift with his party -- and many voters -- over Iraq.

Labour MPs warned that President Bush might be more willing to act unilaterally against countries such as Iran after winning a new mandate.

When it is painfully obvious that the US and Europe went separate ways, remember that you heard it here first.

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pessimist :: 2:08 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!