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Europe

Opinion: Condi's Charm Offensive

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday called on Europeans to come to a new chapter in transatlantic relations. How much should Europeans take on faith?

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Condi fever came to Europe and with it a heavy dose of charm

Whether in Poland, Italy, France or Belgium, Condoleezza Rice above all sold her old message in a new package. The charm offensive of the second Bush administration -- to affection-starved Europeans -- has been completely effective.

The foreign minister of NATO strung himself along dutifully and avidly nodded as Rice spoke of the good opportunity to overcome the differences over Iraq. The conciliatory tone was new but Rice made it clear for those who wanted to hear it that she expects a trade-off for the new harmony.

Europe must work together with the US, she said in Paris with a winning smile. Europeans hastily forget the fact that it was Rice, as national security advisor, that had much influence in the decisions on Iraq. It was also Rice who, immediately after the occupation of Iraq, wanted to punish France and ignore Germany.

Now Condi, as her mentor George W. Bush calls her, floats in Europe on one pink cloud to another. No one has publicly opposed her even though her announcement that the US is not content with the status quo of the world -- or with the oppression and tyranny that exists in in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Cuba -- could have far reaching consequences for everyone including the Europeans.

Playing the good cop

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could be the deliverer of worse news to his NATO colleagues in Nice later this year. That way, Rice doesn't have to get her hands dirty. She plays the good cop, to Rumsfeld's Dirty Harry, demanding more troops for Afghanistan, more trainers for Iraq and more spending on arms from the Europeans. And if the US president in two weeks decides to play the unusual roll of charmer-in-chief, he will have NATO and EU officials lying at his feet.

USA Haushaltsentwurf 2006 George Bush

Charmer-in-chief this time?

NATO officials plan a sort of family reunion, in which the Europeans would joyfully welcome back their lost son, an American 'love fest.' And as a gift, they will present him with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his best friend from the 'old' continent, to present a beefed-up plan for aid to Iraq.

Mistrust necessary

The first test for the new transatlantic cosiness could be over issues regarding Iran and China. While the EU has made a deal with Tehran -- good relations for the abandonment of weapons programs -- for Condi and Co. the mere existence of the repressive regime is a reason to want to change the status quo. Also in the case of China, the US disagrees with the dismantling of European weapons embargos for strategic reasons. The charm attack out of Washington will not be able to repair these fundamental differences, just cover them.

Is the announcement by Rice that the US president is determined to strengthen transatlantic connections a reward or a threat? A good portion of mistrust by the Europeans will stand by them in good stead.

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