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Bush Doctrine Is Expected to Get Chilly Reception

The Bush doctrine will face an early and probably skeptical audience abroad when the president travels to Europe next month for talks with NATO allies and European Union leaders. After Brussels, Bush plans to visit Germany, the center of European opposition to the Iraq war; then he is scheduled to meet in Slovakia with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin logically would be Bush's first test of his inaugural pledge to confront "every ruler" about domestic oppression and predicate relations on "the decent treatment of their own people." Under Putin, the Kremlin has taken over or shut down independent television networks, ousted democratic reform parties from Parliament through manipulated elections, imprisoned or driven into exile Russian business magnates who defied him, and eliminated the election of regional governors.


President Bush tested his new foreign policy in a speech in Halifax in December. Canadian officials were angered by the "old Bush" demands, despite vows to mend fences. (Andrew Vaughan -- AP)


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Putin usually bristles at even mild U.S. criticism, and others around the world seem no more eager to listen to a proselytizing president. A survey of nearly 22,000 people in 21 countries by the BBC World Service last week found that 47 percent see U.S. influence in the world today as largely negative and 58 percent believe Bush's reelection will make the world more dangerous.

Some foreign leaders had hoped for a more collaborationist second term, reasoning that other U.S. presidents had matured by the time they were reelected. Rice sent signals of a more diplomatic approach with some of her early appointments and statements at Senate confirmation hearings.

In Europe, "there may be more readiness to deal with [Bush] in a second term than before because many of them have the illusion, the hope, that he will abandon some of his almost contemptuous unilateralism," said Fritz Stern, a German-born historian at Columbia University and former member of the Trilateral Commission.

Richard Holwill, a former Reagan administration diplomat, said Rice would make a difference at State because of her close relationship with Bush. "They're going to greatly improve the administration's foreign policy machinery," he said.

But he added that the administration needs to rethink its approach to fighting terrorists. "Bush presents everything in very black-and-white moralistic terms," Holwill said, "and I truly hope that we get a more sophisticated approach to the war against the Salafists," or Islamic radicals, "because they are gaining ground on the Arab street."

Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and now is president of the Brookings Institution, said he was optimistic Bush would do a better job of reaching out to allies in the second term. "Certainly his stock was low in Europe, but the good news is he has nowhere to go but up," Talbott said. "The administration came into office with some mistrust and, let's say, less regard for diplomacy as such because diplomacy is about compromise and they weren't in a very compromising mood." Now, he said, "I think you're likely to have a lot more diplomacy."

Still, Bush has sent mixed signals in that regard. In a pre-inaugural interview with The Washington Post, he acknowledged the discomfort in Europe, the Muslim world and elsewhere. "We need to work on a public diplomacy effort that explains our motives and explains our intentions," he said.

"That line," said Talbott, "particularly stood out as the interview was read on Embassy Row. The Europeans would like to see more than better explanations of American positions. They would like to see actual dialogue. . . . They want some give and take."

The Canada trip offered a case study in the tension between Bush's ideals and allies' expectations. When Bush agreed to go to Ottawa after the November election, the gesture was seen in Canada as a long-overdue olive branch. Like France and Germany, Canada broke from the United States over the Iraq war and felt alienated from Washington. Martin, the new prime minister, was eager to smooth the waters.

To avoid any unpleasantries, Martin sacked a shrill critic of Bush from his governing party, and Bush aides steered the president away from speaking to Parliament, where he might have been heckled. Canadian officials said their U.S. counterparts assured them that Bush would not put Martin on the spot on his refusal to join the U.S. missile defense system.

But Bush did confront Martin and used the sort of language that sets Canadians on edge. "He leaned across the table and said, 'I'm not taking this position, but some future president is going to say, 'Why are we paying to defend Canada?' " said the senior Canadian official who was in the room and noted that he had been assured by Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell personally that Bush would avoid the subject.

"Most of our side was trying to explain the politics, how it was difficult to do," the official said. But Bush "waved his hands and said, 'I don't understand this. Are you saying that if you got up and said this is necessary for the defense of Canada it wouldn't be accepted?' "

The next day Bush gave a speech in Halifax that to the Canadians sounded as tough and uncompromising as ever. "We were all looking at each other and saying this is a speech for somebody else. It certainly wasn't for Canadians."

Correspondent Doug Struck contributed to this report from Toronto.


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