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U.S.-EU Clash of Agendas

Prepared by: Michael Moran
Updated: June 20, 2006

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President Bush's arrival in Vienna for a summit with EU leaders finds the transatlantic partnership embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear-tinged diplomacy with Iran and North Korea, and a free trade system fast losing the global consensus it needs to operate. CFR's top analyst on Europe, Charles Kupchan, agrees the range of items on the agenda is impressive. Yet while the Bush administration and Europe's leaders have patched relations, Kupchan tells Bernard Gwertzman in an interview, "Bush remains very unpopular among the European public."

The animosity directed at Washington since the start of the Iraq War in 2003 continues to overshadow efforts to get the world's two most powerful partners on the same page. European politicians, driven by angry electorates, will insist issues like the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the probe into alleged Marine revenge killings at Haditha in Iraq, and the rendition of terrorist suspects be aired too. The BBC notes the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay may overshadow talks on other issues. Underscoring concern over alleged European complicity in the renditioning of suspected terrorists by U.S. authorities, the Council of Europe issued a report last week charging EU states with duplicity.

European angst over such things tends to be dismissed by the Bush administration's supporters on the Right. And, surely, relations are greatly improved since the run up to the Iraq war. But as The Financial Times notes, the United States ranks first in a new Harris poll that asked European citizens to name the country which poses the greatest threat to world stability. The annual Pew Research Center survey of America's image abroad, released last week, provides additional context.

Given all this, Bush wants to accentuate the positive (VOA). One area where old friendships remain strong is Afghanistan, where NATO assumed a large share of what had been a U.S.-dominated mission to battle Taliban elements. RAND's James Dobbins, a veteran U.S. diplomat, takes a deeper look at NATO's nation-building role for NATO Review.

Stressing recent unity on Iran, which is mulling a U.S.-European inducement package (AP) aimed at getting it to eschew nuclear weapons development, is another summit aim (VOA). Of particular interest is getting this point across to Russia, which hosts the annual Group of Eight (G-8) summit in St. Petersburg next month. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to discuss the Iran situation during the July meeting (FOX). CFR's Russia Task Force Report examines Moscow's ties with Washington, strained somewhat by Russia's recent efforts to flex its muscles in former Soviet republics it once ruled.

Indeed, Bush's post-summit stop in Hungary is meant to underscore the successes of the post-Soviet bloc nations of Central and Eastern Europe. The White House confirmed he had hoped to travel to Ukraine (WashPost), which has very poor relations with Moscow right now, but the visit was canceled, largely because Ukrainian politicians have failed to form a new government since elections in March.

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