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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 05:47 GMT 06:47 UK
Bush's tough task in Europe
President Bush
Mr Bush wants European support for the war on terror

It's a measure of America's fractious relationship with many of its European allies that White House officials appear to be looking forward with much greater enthusiasm to the president's visit to Moscow and St Petersburg than Berlin, Paris and Rome.

Only over the weekend, French President Jacques Chirac delivered a belligerent speech attacking the "unilateralism" of the Bush administration, a by-word in Europe for America's diplomatic single-mindedness and indifference to the concerns of other countries.

In short, its infuriating tendency, as the Europeans see things, to go it alone.

Bush administration officials bristle with anger at what they see as the constant carping from European allies, over everything from the death penalty to the environment; the creation of an international criminal court to massive new farm subsidies for American farmers; cultural imperialism to the president's intellectual prowess.

US-bashing Europe

Washington will find it something of an oddity that the Russian President Vladimir Putin was feted like a conquering hero recently in Berlin, while thousands of anti-American demonstrators will fill the streets, as part of a nationwide protest against Mr Bush's trip.

Secretary of State Colin Powell
Colin Powell has complained of anti-Americanism in Europe
Ahead of the visit, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has complained of America-bashing, telling a group of European newspaper correspondents:

"We get bashed all the time. There are some in Europe who are always quick to find fault."

Coming from Mr Powell, the criticisms were particularly pointed. He is known as the most pro-European senior administration figure and is privately thought to share some of Europe's concerns.

Evil axis speech

President Bush's State of the Union address in January, when he spoke first of an "Axis of Evil", including Iran, Iraq and North Korea, marked a turning point in America's relationship with Europe.

Many European nations considered the speech unnecessarily bellicose and have voiced open concerns about targeting countries, like Iraq, with no proven links with the attacks of 11 September.

The very notion of expanding the war on terrorism to other theatres causes real problems in many European capitals.

What angers Europeans most, it seems, is that Washington appears to pay such little attention to their concerns.

Bush will use this trip to reassert that the transatlantic relationship is fundamentally strong and to rekindle European support for the global war on terrorism. It is likely to be a hard sell.

Hitting where it hurts

Other than the war on terrorism, there are two other main points of divergence: America's policy in the Middle East; and an impending trade dispute over the imposition of tariffs to protect the US steel industry.

Steel Mill
Europe's retaliation for US tariffs has targetted areas politically crucial for Mr Bush
Most Europeans think that America's Middle East policy is tilted too heavily in favour of Israel and that Bush is prepared to ignore the excesses of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon while rarely missing an opportunity to lambaste Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

There have been whispers in Washington - though never voiced publicly by administration officials - that European anti-Semitism could once more be on the rise.

America's newfound protectionism is also worrying the Europeans and could easily presage a new trade war.

There's been an angry reaction to the introduction of steel tariffs designed to protect steel producers in Rust Belt states, like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, key electoral battlegrounds.

New farm legislation, handing out billions of dollars in federal government subsidies to American producers, has poured fuel on the flames.

Europe is retaliating by introducing tariffs on American exports like citrus fruits and linen products. They have looked at an electoral map of America and decided where to hit the President where it hurts most.

See also:

21 May 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Business
22 May 02 | Europe
11 May 02 | Americas
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