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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 10:27 GMT
What the world can expect
Dick Cheney, George W Bush and Condoleezza Rice
Mr Bush is backed by an experienced team
By Jeff Phillips in Washington

President-elect George W Bush has travelled abroad only rarely, mispronounces the names of countries and, early in his election campaign, was famously unable to answer a journalist's questions about foreign leaders.

Although he easily held his own against Al Gore in the presidential debates, his reputation as one who has little grasp of the world beyond America's borders seems to have stuck.

Colin Powell
General Colin Powell is widely touted as the next secretary of state.
What, then, should we expect of the new leadership of the world's sole remaining superpower?

Mr Bush has made an electoral point of the quality of his foreign policy team, stressing that he would turn to them for top-quality advice.

He has a point.

The team is led by an academic Dr Condoleezza Rice, who worked in President Reagan's National Security Council, and is slated as President Bush's National Security Adviser.

His overall vision suggests a United States willing to act more unilaterally than previously in defence of its interests, and less disposed to work through the international institutions

It also includes his vice-president, Dick Cheney, who was defence secretary during the Gulf War against Iraq; and General Colin Powell, the former chief of staff, who is widely touted as the next secretary of state.

As Mr Bush points out, he may not share Al Gore's foreign policy expertise, but his advisory team has a depth of experience that Mr Gore will find hard to match - although quite how well these three forceful personalities will work in tandem is another question.

A Bush administration would also - in principle, at least - enjoy the support of a Republican-led Congress.

'Comprehensive relations'

Mr Bush says his foreign policy priorities will reflect the vital national security interests of the United States - an implied rejection of interventions for humanitarian purposes or in the broad but fuzzy interests of the "international community".

Colombian soldier
Developments in Colombia are likely to force their way onto the president's desk
The United States is not the world's policeman, he says, and regional powers and alliances will have to carry a greater share of the security load.

Mr Bush says he wants to strengthen relations with allies, but his overall vision suggests a United States willing to act more unilaterally than previously in defence of its interests, and less disposed to work through the international institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Dr Rice says the Bush administration's foreign policy will takes the United States and the world beyond the "post-Cold War", developing more comprehensive relations with its major adversaries, such as Russia and China, and establishing a global strategic framework underpinned by a military force able to protect American interests.

This approach will also include strong ties with traditional partners around the world, such as those in Europe, Israel and the Persian Gulf, and in Asia.

A re-vamped military is also seen as important to deter states such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, generally seen as responsible for much of the world's terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction and missiles.

The Russian factor

While this is generally viewed as a security and interests-based approach, the Bush team emphasise that they will also assert American values by supporting countries going through the transition to democracy and open-market economic reform.

Vladimir Putin
Relations with Moscow will be tested if the US insists on a missile defence plan
Thus, Mr Bush strongly backed the outgoing Clinton-Gore administration's efforts to win most-favoured-nation trading status for China and its accession to the World Trade Organisation, seeing this as encouraging political and economic change likely to promote good relations with the rest of the world.

Efforts to re-cast relations with Russia and China are, however, likely to ruffle feathers in Moscow and Beijing.

The Bush team say they will be more hard-nosed about lending to Russia, whether directly or through the international institutions.

They have criticised the Clinton approach for focusing policy too closely on the person who occupies the presidency - Vladimir Putin now, Boris Yeltsin in the past - and being too willing to allow money to go to Russia while overlooking the lack of economic reform and the evidence of rampant corruption.

Mr Bush has made an electoral point of the quality of his foreign policy team... He has a point

Relations with Moscow will be further tested if a Bush administration pushes ahead with the building of a national missile defence programme, designed to intercept missiles fired by so-called rogue states at the US or its allies.

The Russian leader opposes the deployment of such a system, arguing that it would upset the strategic balance between the two countries and violate the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Mr Bush says he is willing to break the treaty, whether or not Mr Putin agrees.


China is also disturbed by the possibility of such a deployment, which it sees as drawing Taiwan even more directly under the US security umbrella, protecting it from China's ambitions to recover its lost province.

Elsewhere in Asia, India, already a nuclear power, is recognised as an increasingly powerful influence in the regional security balance.

Mr Bush acknowledges no vital national interests in Africa, and here lies one of the clearest contrasts with the Clinton-Gore administration, which tried to promote Africa up the agenda by supporting economic development and trade ties.

Latin America, too, arouses little strategic interest, but advisers are already warning that developments in the region are likely to force their way onto the presidential desk sooner rather than later in files marked Colombia and Ecuador.

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10 Nov 00 | Americas
Bush 'preparing for power'
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