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Bush’s Lamentable Summitry Skills

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The G8 conference at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm has just commenced, and President George W. Bush is busily enhancing his reputation – for nonstop bungling. With tensions between the United States and Russia at their most dangerous levels since the end of the Cold War, Bush has made a series of sophomoric misstatements. As Reuters reports:

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that Russia posed no threat to Europe despite its vow to target the continent if the U.S. deploys a missile shield in central Europe. “Russia is not going to attack Europe,” Bush told reporters at the start of a G8 summit on the Baltic coast . . .

Asked if the U.S. military should respond in some way to Putin’s warning, Bush said that was not needed. “As I said yesterday, Russia is not an enemy. There needs to be no military response because we are not at war with Russia,” Bush told reporters travelling with him.

In diplo-speak of course, presenting denials of questions that were never put in the first place is understood as sending a message – and in a case like this one, a very hostile message. In Bush’s case he probably doesn’t mean it that way. He’s never been a diplomat or had any patience for diplomacy. Bush is the sort who would never serve in a war, but finds military engagement the simplest solution for every problem.

Who knows what this summit has yet to hold for us. It may even exceed some of Bush’s prior antics. At their last meeting, Bush proceeded to give German Chancellor Angela Merkel a backrub – to her great annoyance. German cartoonists later portrayed Bush grabbing Merkel’s breasts from behind. On May 24, 2002, Bush had a summit with Vladimir Putin that included a televised meeting in the gilded Andreyevsky Hall in the Kremlin. Bush strode into the hall chewing bubble gum, and then after being seated at the table for a signing ceremony, proceeded to pull the gum from his mouth and stick it on the table. I watched this live on Russian TV as it happened and it was the talk of the papers in Europe for a week. But the entire episode was edited out of coverage supplied for viewers in the United States. If anything, Bush already seems on track to topping his prior performances. We’d better start practicing “duck and cover” in our elementary schools, the Cold War is on its way back.

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