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Friday, 6 April, 2001, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Climate change causes Atlantic rift
US highway
America's pollution is angering Europe
By European Affairs correspondent William Horsley

US President George W Bush's refusal to be part of the Kyoto accord to slow down global warming has insulted his European allies and caused a serious cooling down of transatlantic relations.

But Mr Bush's high-handed treatment of Europe may leave him isolated in his hour of need as he faces the challenge of a diplomatic standoff with China.

This week the European Parliament issued one of the severest condemnations of a "friendly" state in recent diplomatic history.

George W Bush
Bush's first moves angered Europeans
In its resolution it said it was, "appalled that the long-term interests of most of the world's population were being sacrificed for short-term corporate greed in the US".

The French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, has also condemned the US for its "unilateralist" behaviour. He complained that the US does not seem to think that some essential international rules apply to it.

This parting of the ways between America and its European allies on a key environmental issue has the potential to poison transatlantic relations seriously.

"Rogue state"

The end of the Cold War means that "soft" issues like the environment are high on the EU's list of priorities.

And the way in which President Bush announced his categorical rejection of Kyoto was taken as an insult.

Pollution spews out from Russian factories
Industrial pollution is a matter of concern for the EU
Most European governments now believe that global warming caused by industrial pollution, if unchecked, will pose a serious risk to the planet within a matter of decades.

And it is beyond dispute that the US is the world's worst polluter, accounting for a quarter of all harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

Commentators in Europe have begun calling the US itself "a rogue state".

Self-isolation

France, like some other European countries, objected loudly to President Bush's first international policy decisions: to bomb air defence targets in Iraq - with help from British forces - and to press ahead with a new missile defence shield.

President Chirac of France called the missile defence scheme "an invitation to proliferation".

There were more ripples of concern when, without warning, the new US administration last month ordered 50 Russian diplomats to leave, accused of spying.

The European media interpreted that as a step towards a new Cold War.

One EU diplomat called it "a distraction" for Europe at a moment when the European Union was discussing its own strategic relationship with Russia at a special meeting with President Putin in Stockholm.

Now George W Bush faces the serious test of his foreign policy so far, with China apparently challenging US military behaviour in Asia by holding the crew of the downed US spy plane, and demanding an apology before their release.

America's allies have said little in public about the spy plane incident, and some European politicians have suggested that America's selfish behaviour on other issues may make it harder for the US to win diplomatic support in its confrontation with China.

United front

The European Union's goal is to express its own united policy on world affairs, distinct from that of the US.

That process is now speeding up, as the US has placed itself at odds with old allies as well as old foes. The US has much to do to repair the damage, judging by comments in the European media.

Germany's Die Welt says "Washington seems to be seeking confrontation with all its rivals at the same time...This is not only strategically rash, but weakens Washington's position and infuriates its allies."

The French weekly L'Express writes that "Thanks to George Bush, Europe has started to speak with one voice. It is closing ranks against Bushism."

Even in Britain, where there is a strong instinct to stay by America's side in all circumstances, sympathy for President Bush is conspicuously absent.

The Times writes that the Chinese may be teaching the Bush administration an early lesson, that if it casts China as "strategic competitor" rather than a partner, China is capable of making life very difficult.

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See also:

03 Apr 01 | Americas
EU defends Kyoto accord
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
29 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
US facing climate isolation
28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Anger as US abandons Kyoto
22 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Global warming 'not clear cut'
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