In Europe, Bush of­fers his for­eign pol­icy views

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Seema Mehta seema.mehta@la­times.com

BER­LIN — Jeb Bush, hop­ing to pol­ish his for­eign pol­icy cre­den­tials be­fore he for­mally an­nounces a White House bid, launched a three­na­tion trip to Europe on Tues­day by laud­ing his fa­ther’s role in the uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many af­ter the Ber­lin Wall fell in 1989.

“The uni­fi­ca­tion, as you all know, was not in­evitable,” the for­mer Repub­li­can gover­nor of Florida told more than 2,000 peo­ple at a ma­jor eco­nomic con­fer­ence here. “Many doubted it.”

With his fa­ther’s sup­port, “Ger­many is whole and Ger­many is free,” Bush said as the crowd heartily ap­plauded.

He didn’t men­tion his older brother, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, in a 30minute speech.

The dis­parate treat­ment is a re­flec­tion of the po­lit­i­cal thicket Bush faces as he pre­pares to kick off his cam­paign Mon­day. Whereas his fa­ther, Ge­orge H.W. Bush, and his one-term pres­i­dency are re­mem­bered fondly, his brother was deeply un­pop­u­lar in much of Europe, as well as at home, by the time he left of­fice in 2009.

Jeb Bush’s speech at Wirtschaft­srat, the an­nual con­fer­ence of the Eco­nomic Coun­cil of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, was his first public event on a five­day trip to Ger­many, Poland and Es­to­nia. He used it to stake out a mus­cu­lar for­eign pol­icy well within main­stream Repub­li­can views.

Bush called for an ag­gres­sive stance against Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and took aim at the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s for­eign and fis­cal poli­cies, even as he in ef­fect em­braced some of them.

“We’re be­gin­ning to re­al­ize the re­set but­ton didn’t turn out so hot,” Bush said, re­fer­ring to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s pro­posed “re­set” of diplo­matic re­la­tions with Moscow in 2009. Putin was then prime min­is­ter un­der Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev.

Re­la­tions have soured steadily since Putin, who had pre­vi­ously served as pres­i­dent, was re­elected in 2012. Rus­sian mil­i­tary forces have backed pro-Moscow sep­a­ratists in eastern Ukraine, and Putin’s poli­cies are stok­ing con­cern in Eastern Europe that he may try to go fur­ther.

But Bush was care­ful to avoid sug­gest­ing that the United States should in­ter­vene uni­lat­er­ally, say­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­gional de­fense lies with the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a pol­icy that the White House has en­dorsed. Ukraine is not a mem­ber of NATO, but Poland and Es­to­nia are.

Putin, Bush said, “will push un­til some­one pushes back, and I be­lieve that is NATO’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Pres­i­dent Obama and the lead­ers of six other ma­jor in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries agreed Mon­day to toughen sanc­tions on Rus­sia, if nec­es­sary, to press for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the conf lict in eastern Ukraine.

At the G-7 sum­mit in south­ern Ger­many, the lead­ers said sanc­tions will re­main in place un­til Rus­sia helps to fully im­ple­ment a peace plan reached in Fe­bru­ary in Minsk, Be­larus.

Bush ap­peared to blame the White House for con­gres­sion­ally man­dated bud­get cuts that af­fect ev­ery depart­ment, in­clud­ing the Pen­tagon. He said the cuts have led to the per­cep­tion of a void in global hot spots, al­low­ing for Chi­nese ex­pan­sion in the South China Sea, among other crises.

Turn­ing to do­mes­tic is­sues, Bush said the U.S. ought to learn from Ger­many’s fis­cal dis­ci­pline as it emerged from the global re­ces­sion af­ter 2009. Ger­many is Europe’s largest and ar­guably strong­est econ­omy.

“End­less bor­row­ing is al­ways an in­vi­ta­tion to trou­ble,” he said. “Any­one can talk a good game on fis­cal dis­ci­pline, but to ac­tu­ally ap­ply fis­cal dis­ci­pline as Ger­many has done, that takes wis­dom and it takes po­lit­i­cal courage.”

Af­ter his speech, Bush was greeted by Merkel in the ho­tel ball­room. They are not for­mally meet­ing; Merkel is re­frain­ing from ap­pear­ing with U.S. pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates be­fore they be­come party nom­i­nees.

Axel Sch­midt Getty Images

JEB BUSH greets Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. His speech in Ber­lin kicks off a three-na­tion visit.

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