As US President George W. Bush showed a willingness to listen during his recent trip to Europe, EU countries should respond positively to the American's shift away from unilateralist policies, says DW's Rüdiger Lentz.
Bush remains hugely unpopular in Germany
The ability to listen is a rare commodity amongst politicians. Most surprisingly, this ability was shown many times during President Bush's trip to Europe last week. Bush took his time to listen and so did his counterparts -- from Chirac to Schröder to Putin. This in itself is one of the major achievements of his goodwill tour.
Both sides came to the table with fundamentally different views and priorities. Both sides departed, acknowledging at least a better understanding for the other side.
Smiling again: Chirac and Bush
But it was not only a change in style. Some substantial changes took place as well. Bush broke away from his unilateralist policies of the past by recognizing the necessity of cooperation with the EU. His support of a "strong Europe" demands now a positive response from the Europeans. Iraq and, even more, Iran are political tests ahead: Both sides can show their willingness and ability to be genuine partners.
The current "carrot and stick" strategy with Iran to stop its nuclear ambitions must be credible. That means that all options -- from incentives to sanctions and the threat of force -- have to be on the table. Only if Europe combines its soft power with Washington's military might can Iran be prevented from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The tension between Europe and the US may have eased a little after this trip. But this is only true for the political elites. Amongst the European public, Bush remains highly unpopular. Only 24 percent of Germans see him as "trustworthy." Even Vladimir Putin with 29 percent garners more support. This is a steep fall for the US. The once highly esteemed ally is now a political outcast.
Showing Schröder the way
The fact that Putin's democracy "Russian style" gets more approval than Bush's pledge for more freedom and democracy around the world is more than irritating. America deserves better than that. Europe would be well advised not to appease Russia's authoritarian regime and to steer clear from trying to emancipate itself not from but against America.
There have been many good reasons to criticize the messianic political style of Bush's first term. But isn’t it time now to stop finger-pointing and bickering?
After all, one has to acknowledge that Afghanistan and Iraq might have been catalysts for what we see now happening in Lebanon, in Egypt and even between the Palestinians and Israel.
The spread of the ideals of freedom and democracy has been a European prerogative for a long time. Don’t leave it now to Bush alone to carry this torch to new frontiers.
Rüdiger Lentz is Deutsche Welle's bureau chief in Washington.