Atelier No.15, article 16

Brian Knowlton :
©International Herald Tribune, August 15, 2001

                                               Bush Gets Low Marks in Europe

                                   Poll Finds Wide Disapproval of President's Conduct of
                                   Foreign Policy
                                   Citizens of the four largest West European countries disapprove of
                                   President George W. Bush's handling of international policy by
                                   wide margins, according to a new opinion survey.

                                   The Europeans object in particular to the U.S. president's
                                   positions on global warming and missile defense. They express
                                   only slightly more confidence in him than in President Vladimir
                                   Putin of Russia.

                                   Overwhelming majorities of Europeans in the poll describe Mr.
                                   Bush as a unilateralist, concerned only with U.S. interests. By
                                   margins of 3 to 1 or more, they say he understands Europe less
                                   well than earlier American presidents.

                                   The poll, the first big multicountry opinion survey of reaction to
                                   Mr. Bush's foreign policy, was conducted this month in Britain,
                                   France, Germany and Italy by the International Herald Tribune in
                                   collaboration with the Pew Research Center for the People and
                                   the Press, a nonpartisan U.S. polling group, and in association with
                                   the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. A poll including many of
                                   the same questions was conducted in the United States, as well, to
                                   compare American and European responses.

                                   The results demonstrate the substantial challenges facing the new
                                   U.S. administration as it seeks to move ahead on thorny and
                                   complex international issues such as environmental protection and
                                   arms control.

                                   "This administration, and the Bush campaign that preceded it, have
                                   been very explicit about pursuing American interests in a narrow
                                   sense," said Dana Allin, a specialist in trans-Atlantic relations at the
                                   International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "One
                                   shouldn't be surprised if European publics react badly to this kind
                                   of rhetoric."

                                   The survey did, however, find strong support in Europe - in fact,
                                   stronger than in the United States - for Mr. Bush's decision to
                                   keep peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and Kosovo. Europeans also
                                   backed his efforts to promote free trade, and only about 1 in 5 of
                                   the European respondents said the basic interests of Europe and
                                   the United States had grown further apart.

                                   "If there is a bright light in the poll results," said Andrew Kohut,
                                   director of the Pew Center, "it is that most reject the idea that the
                                   U.S. and Europe are drifting apart."

                                   But the Europeans' confidence in the underlying trans-Atlantic
                                   relationship served to underscore the dissatisfaction with the
                                   current U.S. president himself. Disapproval of Mr. Bush was
                                   strongest in Germany and France, where solid majorities disliked
                                   his performance on the international stage.

                                   The president fared least badly in Italy, but even there 46 percent
                                   expressed disapproval, with 29 percent approving and the rest
                                   declining to answer.

                                   In the United States, citizens supported Mr. Bush's international
                                   policy by a margin of 45 percent to 32 percent.

                                   The Europeans gave Mr. Bush drastically lower approval ratings
                                   than they now give his predecessor, Bill Clinton, whose support
                                   among Europeans started low but rose gradually during his

                                   "Any new president is likely to have a rough treatment from
                                   European allies who were just getting comfortable with the old
                                   one," Mr. Allin said. Mr. Clinton, he noted, "was ideologically in
                                   tune with the center-left governments that came to power in the
                                   major West European capitals" during his term.

                                   Six months into the Clinton presidency in 1993, Europeans were
                                   complaining that America was showing no leadership, and that Mr.
                                   Clinton, the former governor of the Southern state of Arkansas,
                                   was "goofy" and undeserving of respect. A Tokyo Broadcasting
                                   poll in Japan found that two in three Japanese said they mistrusted
                                   Mr. Clinton.

                                   The IHT/Pew poll was conducted not long after Mr. Bush
                                   completed his first six months in office, when he drew considerable
                                   criticism in Europe from leaders and commentators for actions that
                                   some have said showed arrogant disregard by the world's
                                   dominant superpower for allied views.

                                   Perhaps most salient was Mr. Bush's decision to abandon the
                                   Kyoto Protocol to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, a move
                                   that prompted the highly unusual decision by 178 other countries
                                   to go ahead without U.S. support. Controversy has erupted as
                                   well over Mr. Bush's plan to construct anti-missile defenses, even
                                   if it means withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
                                   Treaty, and over his decisions to temporarily back off from
                                   confidence-building talks with North Korea and to repudiate a
                                   Clinton administration decision to sign an accord to establish an
                                   International Criminal Court. The new administration also has
                                   withheld support for efforts to complete or enforce a biological
                                   weapons treaty, an international ban on land mines, a small-arms
                                   control pact, an anti-money-laundering effort and United Nations
                                   population control programs.

                                   The Europeans surveyed not only objected to Mr. Bush's policies
                                   but also questioned whether he wanted to work with them to solve
                                   common problems. More than 7 in 10 of those surveyed in each
                                   European country said that Mr. Bush acted solely based on U.S.
                                   interests in making foreign policy decisions. Asked whether Mr.
                                   Bush took Europe into account, fewer than 2 in 10 in any country
                                   said that he did. On specific issues, Europeans disagreed with Mr.
                                   Bush's abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases
                                   by a margin of about 8 to 1. That was far greater than the 44
                                   percent of Americans who disagreed with it.

                                   Mr. Bush's support for the death penalty in the United States was
                                   roundly criticized during his recent visits to Europe, and poll
                                   respondents in Italy, Germany and France disapproved of his
                                   position by 2 to 1 or more. Britons were evenly split on the issue.
                                   On the bright side for Mr. Bush, the Europeans approved by
                                   double-digit margins his free-trade policies and decision to keep
                                   U.S. troops in the Balkans.

                                   On missile defense, Germans, long among the most sensitive
                                   Europeans to issues of arms control, resoundingly disapproved of
                                   Mr. Bush's plan to develop an anti-missile system even if it meant
                                   withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. The margin was 83 percent to
                                   10 percent.

                                   The opposition to the missile plan - which critics say could cause
                                   instability in Europe and possibly a new arms race in Asia- was
                                   nearly as large in Britain, France and Italy. "This certainly has to be
                                   a matter of concern to the president," said Robert Jervis, president
                                   of the American Political Science Association, "because he needs
                                   cooperation and support from European leaders, and European
                                   leaders are to some extent responsive to their public opinions."

                                   Mr. Jervis, a professor of international politics at Columbia
                                   University, has said that much of the world sees "the prime rogue
                                   state today" as the United States.

                                   Other analysts have been more sanguine, saying that any
                                   president's first months in office are bound to be bumpy; that
                                   European leaders, at least, have gradually warmed to Mr. Bush;
                                   and that he, like other presidents, is likely to turn increasingly to
                                   international issues and will have no choice but to seek foreign

                                   "If you look at the early European reactions to Carter, Reagan and
                                   Clinton, it was all very simplistic," said Jackson Janes, executive
                                   director of the American Institute for Contemporary German
                                   Studies, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "The first six
                                   months is a rush to judgment," he said.

                                   Mr. Bush, moreover, retains substantial support at home on many
                                   international issues.

                                   "His favorable ratings on foreign policy are not bad among
                                   Americans. They're slightly to the positive," said Steven Kull,
                                   director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the
                                   University of Maryland.

                                   "By and large, the American public approves of Bush's handling of
                                   foreign policy," said Mr. Kohut of the Pew Center.

                                   By contrast, Europeans expressed little confidence in Mr. Bush.
                                   Only 2 in 10 French respondents and somewhat higher
                                   proportions of British (30%) and Italians (33%) said that they had
                                   a fair degree of confidence, or better, in his conduct of world

                                   Germans gave Mr. Bush better marks, with just over half voicing
                                   at least some confidence in his abilities. Europeans overall
                                   expressed only a bit more confidence in Mr. Bush than in Mr.
                                   Putin of Russia. Mr. Bush edged out Mr. Putin by margins of 4 to
                                   10 percentage points among respondents who expressed a fair
                                   degree of confidence in him, or better, regarding world affairs.

                                   On the negative side of the ledger, larger numbers of Britons and
                                   Italians expressed "not too much" confidence or "none at all" in
                                   Mr. Bush than in Mr. Putin.

                                   The Europeans had significantly more confidence in their own
                                   national leaders. For each - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of
                                   West Germany, President Jacques Chirac of France, Prime
                                   Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
                                   of Italy - a majority of respondents in his country had a fair amount
                                   or a great deal of confidence in him.

                                   Analysts emphasized that one of the central features of Europeans'
                                   dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush was the sense that the United States
                                   was behaving in a unilateral way.

                                   "The interest in which we act is a narrower American interest than
                                   was true, I believe, of previous American administrations," said
                                   Mr. Jervis of Columbia University.

                                   The Bush administration has insisted that it is fully engaged with its
                                   partners. Rejecting the unilateralist label affixed by critics abroad
                                   and in the Democratic Party at home, a senior State Department
                                   official has described the Bush approach as "à la carte
                                   multilateralism." A degree of unilateralism is natural for the world's
                                   only superpower, Mr. Allin said. "But it is a problem for Bush if a
                                   crisis erupts - in the Persian Gulf or Taiwan Strait - where
                                   European views and interests are ambiguous," he said. "His
                                   unpopularity certainly could impair his ability to line up allied
                                   support for U.S. action."

                                   Is Mr. Bush in sync with the American public on questions of

                                   "He is somewhat out of step with the American majority," Mr. Kull
                                   said. "In general, the public is very pro-multilateralist, and tends to
                                   favor all kinds of international cooperation."