Bush Euro visit - the aftermath
Via Davos Newbies, a pessimistic take on Bush's European visit (well, if you're pro-EU, at any rate) from the Financial Times:
"It seemed that every time the US president talked of liberty, one or other European leader would unfurl the standard of stability. Every American evocation of idealism collided with European realism. The religion of realism once preached by Henry Kissinger has been cast out by the evangelicals in the White House only to be revered as revealed truth in the self-consciously secular chancelleries of Old Europe."But the US Ambassador to the EU, Rockwell Schnabel, is a bit more positive:
"There was a broad perception that something was to change in the president’s recognition for Europe. But he made it clear during his visit that it was a misunderstanding because the current US administration is committed to Europe just like the one four years ago... Disagreements in some areas still exist, but in general, there’s a more positive starting point for the current US administration."From the same article, Robert Cooper (Director General for External Economic Relations at the Council of the EU) makes the disingenuous, but moderately valid, point:
"We’re the people who do the regime changes – just look at Turkey or Ukraine, and you can see how far we got by just being [what we are]"More views and news on the Bush trip can be found via The Periscope, here, here and here.
Over in Russia, after the Bush-Putin summit the US President seemed to follow advice to criticise Putin's anti-democratic moves, yet still managed to praise the close Russo-American relationship:
"Even if we didn't agree on certain issues, if you look at what we have done over the last four years and what we want to do in the next four, the common ground is a lot more than those areas where we disagree"It seems as though Bush Jr. Mark II has learned a bit more about diplomacy than was evident during his first term. Still, US pro-democracy calls for Russia may have been damaged a tad by a Houston court decision to dismiss Russian oil giant Yukos' attempts to gain bakruptcy protection (there's some background on this here). Plus Putin has, naturally enough, dismissed any such allegations - and please note the wonderful use of the word "but" here:
"We are not going to invent a special Russian democracy. We are committed to the fundamental principles of democracy... But all the institutions of democracy must be compatible with the condition of Russia and its history."Would it be churlish to point out that Russia's history is hardly filled with shining examples of democracy? Perhaps... The tougher US line is, nonetheless, welcome. Having said that, others point out that it may not do much good:
"Perhaps one of the most telling pointers was that, during the conference, Bush spoke of democracy during his introductory comments, without prompting. Putin, on the other hand, only spoke of it when forced to by journalists questions."Others still point out that pro-democracy messages coming from a non-Russian may not be particuarly well received:
"It will take a Russian to say that, and one who cannot be accused of pro-American sympathies. Russians don't like things pushed down their throats; they would not take advice condescendingly dished out by some spoilt rich kid."The Periscope, which has done a truly superb job in finding info on Bush's trip, has more on the Russian implications as well.
In other, semi-related, news, Orange Revolution hero Victor Yushchenko has called for Ukraine to be allowed to begin EU accession talks, while Ukraine's Socialist party leader is more sceptical.
Oh, and talking of Democracy, it seems that the EU is headed that way too. first comes the news that the fundamentally undemocractic move to ban Nazi symbols has been defeated, and then it seems as though Socialist MEPs are trying to set up an official opposition to the current European Commission. This should - hopefully - be a very good precedent to set. As long as they don't bugger it up, obviously.