President Bush attended his final NATO summit this week in Bucharest, Romania against the backdrop of what many have regarded as an arrogant and unilateralist foreign policy that has been “frayed by the Iraq war.” But one senior administration official said Bush wanted to “lay down a marker” for his “freedom agenda” legacy by promoting full NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
Even though Bush was putting “his personal prestige on the line” in supporting membership for the former Soviet Republics, he was forced to check his legacy at the door. NATO rebuffed, a “remarkable rejection of American policy in an alliance normally dominated by Washington.” In fact, some allies even criticized Bush’s “annoying” views on Ukrainian and Georgian membership:
— German and British officials […] criticized the Bush administration for not coming to grips soon enough with the Ukraine and Georgia problem.
— Bush’s comments added some extra interest while annoying German and French officials, who had said they would block the invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.
— “The debate was mostly among Europeans,” the senior administration official said, acknowledging that several allies had balked at Bush’s stance.
Perhaps Bush was bored of his NATO friends as well. Earlier this week, he tried to end a joint press conference with Romania’s president Traian Basescu, even though “as a matter of courtesy and protocol, the host decides when such an event is over.” And yesterday, Bush “abruptly got up and left the last formal session” of NATO meetings.
Indeed, “many [European leaders] are looking forward now to the next president,” Julianne Smith, Europe analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently noted. “There seems to be a great deal of enthusiasm…on the other side of the Atlantic, that there’s going to be some revitalization of the trans-Atlantic partnership and we start with a clean slate and a new chapter.”