Axis of the Atlantic

President Bush's trip to Asia last week was designed to patch up a few ripped relationships. Now he needs to look across the Atlantic, where Europe's post-Sept. 11 solidarity with the US is fraying fast.

The threat of terrorism is proving not to have the same diplomatic glue as Soviet missiles. Instead, Europe suddenly feels bullied, ignored, and inferior.

Mr. Bush's massive budget for the Pentagon has reinforced a feeling among NATO's European members that they are military ants, whose armies aren't worthy of participating in wars alongside the US, even like those against the Taliban. Far behind in weapons technology, Europe fears it is becoming irrelevant in US-led global diplomacy.

Bush's speech labeling Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil" has upset Europe's leftist leaders, who prefer to appease those nations with diplomatic and economic carrots rather than threaten them with the stick of preemptive military strikes.

Europe also sees imperial hubris in Bush's dismissal of the Kyoto Protocol, Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and part of the Geneva Conventions.

And transatlantic trade tensions are as taut as ever, especially over US export subsidies and a Bush decision expected soon on steel imports.

Soothing words of friendship and consultation from Secretary of State Colin Powell no longer are enough for many Europeans. Bush himself needs to redefine the American-European alliance in all its dimensions.

Key decisions will be made by May on how much voice Russia will be given within NATO. And by November, NATO will decide which states or republics of the former Soviet empire will be invited into NATO. Also, the war in Afghanistan has drawn Central Asian states into the American orbit of influence.

Handling Russia requires Europe and the US to be on the same page. But how much will the US simply dictate the terms of a new geometry of power in Eurasia?

Bush, unlike Bill Clinton, has both a singular virtuous cause against terrorism and immense military power. He also came into office dismissing a US "overreliance" on other nations. While he's built up an antiterror coalition, he must now maintain it carefully for a long campaign.

The cries of anti-US resentment heard from Europe are partly emotional, but also partly a concern that the US is molding a new world too much in its own interests, noble as they may be. Treating Europe as an equal can help refresh an old alliance.

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