Washington — As the U.S.-European rift widens, from missile defense and nuclear testing to land mines and global warming, some European leaders and U.S. Democrats suggest President Bush is drawing America into a new era of isolationism.
The Bush administration calls it "a la carte multinationalism" joining allies when it suits U.S. interests.
"I think when the heat is off on those (issues), people will see that we do want to participate in the larger world community," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday while traveling in Asia.
However, two trips to Europe by Bush have failed to ease concerns on the part of top allies that the president is charting a go-it-alone course in foreign policy.
"There is this occasional tendency toward unilateralism. There always was that. But it has now increased," said Karsten Voigt, coordinator for German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry. Still, Voigt added, "These things will sort themselves out."
"There is no doubt about it, Bush has made the Europeans feel uneasy," said Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for Britain's Liberal Democrat party.
After six months in office, the administration's differences with European allies are stark.
Most prominent among them: Bush's thumbing his nose at the Kyoto climate-change treaty, which has wide support throughout the rest of the world. A United Nations commission last week approved rules for implementing the pact, designed to combat global warming. The United States was the only holdout.
Bush's determination to proceed with a missile-defense shield continues to alarm European allies a concern only mildly eased by his agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to link talks about such a system to arms cuts.
The system would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Bush would like to see that pact ditched; Putin and many European leaders see it as a bedrock arms agreement.
And just Wednesday, the Bush administration abandoned talks on enforcing a 1972 treaty against germ warfare, further fueling criticism.
The administration also opposes treaties to ban land mines and nuclear-weapons tests, and one for an international criminal court. And it balked at a proposed 189-nation pact against small-arms trafficking, supporting only a watered-down version.
The trans-Atlantic relationship bristles with trade disputes, ranging from duties on bananas to tax rates. The U.S. death penalty, strongly supported by Bush, is scorned in Europe. And the hard-line American policy toward both Iran and Iraq has been dropped by all European allies save Britain.
European governments underestimated Bush's tenacity, suggests Petra Holtrup, senior researcher at the German Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin. "This massive retreat on all multilateral issues (is) nothing new, but Bush is the one who is articulating it most directly," she said.
Richard Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning, argues that the administration is working alongside allies on many issues, including efforts to start a new round of World Trade Organization talks. But he said the United States would oppose measures deemed to work against its interests.
"What you're going to get from this administration is a la carte multilateralism," Haass said.