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Bush Expected to Largely Continue Clinton's International Policies

Aired January 20, 2001 - 9:26 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take our focus now away from the nation's capital here in the U.S. and shift our attention overseas. Certainly we have labeled this position many times in the past as the most powerful job in the world, and because of that, a number of people throughout the world, indeed, are curious to know what George W. Bush is like personally and how he will govern here in Washington.

From London now, our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, now joins us with a perspective from abroad. Christiane, hello.


Indeed, a deep sense of nostalgia had been setting in over the last few weeks for the outgoing president, Bill Clinton. Leaders here in Europe, leaders amongst allies around the world have been extolling what they felt were his virtues as president. He had become the elder statesman amongst the Western alliance. He was admired for his intellectual curiosity, for his policy of building personal bridges to get business done. And he really was the most widely traveled U.S. president ever.

In contrast, there has been a certain nervousness, if you like, about the incoming president, George W. Bush. There's always nervousness whenever a U.S. administration changes, but this time it appears particularly pronounced because so much has been made of President George W. Bush's lack of experience, potential lack of interest in the rest of the world.

And so now we're hearing from officials on both sides of the Atlantic that there may, in fact, be an earlier-than-expected visit by the new president to Europe, perhaps in the spring. We'll have to wait and see whether that comes to bear.

But people are doing -- what they're doing here is focusing now less on George W. Bush than on Team Bush, particularly on his highly competent foreign policy team.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): So what if the new president has difficulty with the names of a few world leaders?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new prime minister of India is -- no.

AMANPOUR: And so what if the tabloids make fun of his perceived lack of interest in the world? "We're here," jokes this one, over a satellite image of Britain.

It's not such a bad way to start, say some.

KLAUS BECHER, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: Expectations, in fact, in Europe seem to be pretty low, and that might create, actually, a chance for the incoming administration to surprise Europeans positively. And if you look at the personnel, at the people who actually make up the Bush administration, I'm optimistic that these current fears will quickly be dissolved.

AMANPOUR: Bush already has positive reviews from French President Jacques Chirac after their meeting in Washington. The British prime minister, Tony Blair, expects to continue the U.K.'s special relationship with the U.S. The two leaders will meet in the spring.

But already, there are private worries that Bush will not give the same personal attention to peace in Northern Ireland that Bill Clinton did. And there could be friction over other U.S. policy changes.

During his campaign, George W. Bush talked of pulling U.S. troops out of Bosnia and Kosovo. But Europeans already bear the burden of peacekeeping there.

BECHER: They are concerned that the American engagement in the Balkans that is absolutely essential for maintaining stability there, by all accounts, could suffer from this policy review.

AMANPOUR: After the outcry in Europe, Bush said any withdrawal would be gradual and would happen in consultation with the allies.

Bush's commitment to national missile defense also sent jitters through U.S. allies as well as Russia and China. Now Bush is indicating that while he wants a missile shield, he's unlikely to have one in the foreseeable future.

Bush criticized President Clinton's Russia policy, using economic aid to build democracy and market reform, but he largely agrees with his predecessor's use of economic engagement to promote freedom in China. China experts say Beijing may have preferred Al Gore as the new president, since it would provide continuity. Chinese officials were concerned with some of the language Bush used on the campaign trail.

MICHAEL YAHUDA, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: It doesn't like the term "strategic partner" as applied to China, and at one stage Bush even said that he would think of China as a strategic competitor. Well, since then he's turned down that language. AMANPOUR: Beijing has also recently toned down its language on Taiwan, softening its concept of the one-China policy. Experts say this is aimed principally at Taiwan, but also at the new U.S. administration and right-wingers in Congress.

YAHUDA: It does challenge Washington to a certain extent, because by softening or in some ways making a more sophisticated view as to what one China means, makes it more difficult for the American administration, for an example, to give more arms to Taiwan, or to engage in rhetoric that suggests that the China threat to Taiwan is more serious and immediate.

AMANPOUR: When it comes to the Middle East, the new U.S. administration remains a firm ally of Israel and committed to finding a lasting peace in the region. Beyond that, policy will largely be dictated by who becomes Israel's next prime minister, Ehud Barak, who's committed to the peace process but unable to deliver, or the right-wing hawk Ariel Sharon, who's declared the peace process dead.

As for Iraq, President Bush's father and his current foreign policy team launched the Gulf War. Ten years later, Saddam Hussein remains as entrenched as ever, while the United States stands virtually alone, championing a sanctions policy that is crumbling.

Although fiercely critical of Clinton's record on Iraq, Bush has not yet indicated a much different approach.


AMANPOUR: And so overall, analysts expect there to be broad continuity in foreign policy, despite the differences that Bush highlighted during the campaign. Still, President Clinton and, indeed, Al Gore believe more in a values-driven foreign policy, in intervening in certain trouble spots to promote human rights and democracy.

It's expected that the new Bush administration would use U.S. military power, indeed, diplomatic power, more cautiously, because they have a much narrower, much stricter definition of what's in the U.S. national interest -- Bill.

HEMMER: Christiane, certainly George W. Bush is the man of the hour. He gets the spotlight. But if you look at the team he assembled, when it comes to Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, people who have long history of international affairs, do people in London or throughout Europe give his team any consideration for what decisions they may be making over the next four years that may or may not impact them?

AMANPOUR: Yes, absolutely. In fact, what's remarkable about the attention that's being given to the potential foreign policy of the next administration is that so much less emphasis is being put on Bush because people really don't know what he knows. And a lot more emphasis is being put on Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Rumsfeld as well, all people who are known. Now, there are many people who say this team is competent, intelligent, knows the world, has broad experience, and therefore will continue foreign policy pretty much in the way that it's been over the last several words -- years, broadly, as U.S. foreign policy is conducted.

On the other hand, there are others who say that this team was a Cold War-era team, that the world has changed, that now there are things like human rights and democracy around the world the U.S. has an interest to promote and shore up, and they're not sure whether this team will actually project U.S. power in that fashion, or whether they would be more -- not isolationist, but more cautious in the way they project American power abroad -- Bill.

HEMMER: Something worth tracking, indeed. From London, Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, thanks to you.



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