Saturday, February 12, 2005

Positive Signals from Europe

Today's Washington Times reports that transatlantic relations finally seem to be thawing:

President Bush's re-election and the successful vote in Iraq have had a profound effect on public opinion in Europe, with expectations soaring for Mr. Bush's trip there later this month, a leading member of the European Parliament says.

Spanish center-right lawmaker Alejo Vidal-Quadras Roca, a vice president of the European Parliament, said Mr. Bush's trip to Belgium, Germany and Slovakia — the first foreign trip of his second term — could mark a sharp break with recent public and elite hostility in Europe over the Iraq war and other U.S. policies.

Last Sunday, the Washington Post noted the same phenomenon:

Courtesy of the large turnout in Iraq's election a week ago, the United States and key European allies are beginning to make up after two years of bitterly strained relations over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In large part because of the images of millions of Iraqis voting in defiance of insurgents, Condoleezza Rice's debut in Europe as secretary of state is being greeted with striking warmth and a rush of expectations about the healing of transatlantic ties.

As both articles stress, there are several main factors at work. The Europeans have had to come to terms with two key events. First, there was President Bush's reelection by a solid margin, which undoubtedly came as a shock to many across the Atlantic. Then, the Iraqi elections were far more successful than most Europeans expected. In addition, the Bush Administration is doing a far better job on the diplomatic front. Condoleezza Rice is off to a terrific start as Secretary of State, while Donald Rumsfeld is wisely and mercifully focusing on military matters.

While just a beginning, the warming of Euro-American ties is already bearing fruit. NATO has agreed to expand its commitment in Afghanistan, and is expected to increase its training program in Iraq. While substantial differences in both policy and perception remain, this certainly represents a promising trend. Cooperation between America and Europe is essential if we are to defeat the common threat of jihadism.


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