Crises cast doubt on Bush's strategy
He's emphasized personal relationships with leaders such as Putin and Musharraf.
President Bush has long prided himself on his close personal relationships with foreign leaders. But over the last several weeks some of those relationships appear to have gone disastrously awry.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
At their first meeting in 2001, Bush famously said of Russia's then-President Vladimir Putin that he'd looked into his eyes and found him "trustworthy." Now prime minister, Mr. Putin defends Russia's invasion of Georgia, which has sent US-Russian relations to their lowest point in years.
Mr. Bush has long been a staunch supporter of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Musharraf has now resigned, and the US faces the tough task of trying to persuade Pakistan's elected leaders to focus on the strengthening Taliban insurgency.
All recent US presidents have forged bonds with fellow heads of state. The question is, did the Bush administration depend too much on personal interaction and miss the broader geopolitical forces at work in Russia and Pakistan? Some critics charge that is exactly what happened.
"I found it striking that Bush has talked about [looking into Musharraf's eyes]. It's the same metaphor he used with Putin," says Rand Beers, who was a top national security adviser to the Democratic presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004.
A great deal of US policy toward Russia flowed out of Bush's initial encounter with Putin, according to Mr. Beers, now president of the National Security Network, a foreign-policy research group based in Washington, D.C.
In fact, it was personality-driven geopolitics that blinded the Bush administration to President Saakashvili's recklessness, says Beers. A Georgian incursion into the breakaway province of South Ossetia may have been a provocation Russia was waiting for.
Both the situation in Georgia and Pakistan's domestic political crisis will probably be problems that land in the next president's lap. On Aug. 19, NATO allies warned Russia that future cooperation with Moscow now depends on the withdrawal of troops from Georgia.