Bush’s ‘peacemaking’ tour of Europe began with a speech in which he called for Europe (well, the EU) and America to work together to spread freedom and peace throughout the world. Several states came in for direct criticism, including Russia. Below I’ve excerpted the relevant section of his speech, and followed it with some reactions from around the blogosphere:
I also believe that Russia’s future lies within the family of Europe and the trans-Atlantic community.
America supports WTO [World Trade Organization] membership for Russia, because meeting WTO standards will strengthen the gains of freedom and prosperity in that country.
Yet for Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law.
We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power and the rule of law.
And the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia.
First up is New Sisyphus who, as part of his excellent blow by blow commentary to the speech, argues that Bush is trying show Russia and the world that it’s time for them to sit up and take notice:
Since he famously declared that he had looking into Putins soul and found an ally, the President has lacked a degree of credibility when it comes to Russia. With this speech, the President has finally acknowledged that there is a problem in Moscow and that we need to pay more attention to it.
Expect to see the U.S. begin to take a tougher line with Putins government, and not a moment too soon.
Captain’s Quarters is pleased to see that Bush is prepared to criticise Putin in public:
Many thought that Bush would go easy on Putin in public but privately press him for better progress on democracy. Instead, Bush spoke to strengthen his ties to the democracies of Europe — he used the word "alliance" twelve times and spoke of an unending friendship based on shared values — while making clear that the US had serious concerns about the direction of Russia under Putin’s leadership. While Bush defended Russian membership in WTO and indirectly in G-8 as necessary for continuing engagement, he also demonstrated that his patience is not as endless as our friendship with the European democracies.
Publius Pundit thinks the speech gives Putin a sneak preview of what he can expect in future if he doens’t mend his ways:
My guess is that this is statement was letting Putin know ahead of time what the game plan is to give him time to prepare. No government like to be made a spectacle of in public; Russia, in particular, could use public embarrassment to its advantage of shoring up nationalism around the current regime. The U.S. will most likely keep all major threats private and politically correct as possible to the public.
Law & Entrepreneurship News wonders why:
On the one hand, the WTO website highlighted major progress in accession talks with Russia and the Moscow Times reports that Russia firmly believes it will join the trade organization by the end of 2005.
[But] On the other hand, in the same Brussels speech, President Bush expressed dissatisfaction with Russias progress and called upon Russia to "renew [its] commitment to democracy and the rule of law."
The Sundries Shack doesn’t think we’ll see much coming out of Thursday’s summit, but that even if we see nothing, we shouldn’t necessarily take it to mean that nothing has happened:
The domestic future of Russia is largely out of our hands.
But watch the signs coming out of Bratislava this week. Theyre likely to be subtle, but significant.
Finally, Scrappleface brings to the table its own tactfully satirical take on the speech:
In an effort to thaw international relations, U.S. President George Bush heads to Brussels today with "open arms" and "an attractive bid to buy Europe and Russia and bring them into the American portfolio of nations."
"Rather than view France, Germany and Russia as our contentious friends, we’d like to say they’re part of the family," said Mr. Bush. "Call it a merger. Call it synergy. I just think we have so much opportunity in a shared future of unity, that it would be crazy not to do this deal."
Mr. Bush, who once owned a Major League Baseball franchise, added that "when I see untapped talent, under-used resources and rank mismanagement, I see an invitation engraved in gold."
This is all interesting demonstration of how the press has let people down on the Bush/Russia angle. Why, when Bush makes a couple of non-commital anodyne statements about democracy in Russia, does everyone fall over themselves too see the onset of a new Cold War? Needless to say, it is commentators’ way of spicing up dull and meaningless diplomatic tours to read into speeches, but the game just isn’t worth the candle in this instance.
What is interesting is a subtle shift in the U.S. policy, possibly dictated by the transplanting of the singularly appalling Condoleezza Rice from her old National Security post, from confrontation and conviviality to outright denial.
This will be fun to watch, because if there is one thing that really gets up Russia’s nose then that is being ignored. However, the argument is elaborated in a much more intelligent way here;
Russia’s really scrambling at the moment and it will fascinating to see how Putin going to dig himself out of all the holes he and his band of ministers have dug. In the very end, Putin could once have counted on tacit foreign support, which gave him an air of legitimacy in the world, but with pensioners chomping at his heels, Ivanov hovering outside his Kremlin office, Bush playing hard to get and the ever reliable North Caucausians playing up, how long can the status quo be maintained.
The actual transcript of the press conference between the two was much more interesting, though in many respects, anti-climactic. While we know what they say during the press conference, we’ll never know what they said toward each other. A shame, though rhetorical analysis of Putin’s speech only goes to show his character.