WASHINGTON - An ever-deteriorating
situation in Iraq, a hostile Democratic Congress
and a changing of the guard in some key allied
countries may all combine to bring about a more
cooperative, and perhaps more subdued, US
President George W Bush at the summit of the Group
of Eight (G8) most industrialized nations.
Sensing his relatively fragile position,
Bush has unveiled a series of initiatives and
overtures to the heads of state of the eight
countries that in effect almost rule the world.
Analysts say the
measures are mostly designed
to add some sheen to the United States' lackluster
In a major speech ahead
of the June 6-8 G8 summit in Heiligendamm,
Germany, Bush sought to double US anti-AIDS
funding to US$30 billion for fiscal years 2009-13.
He also urged the US Congress to approve a hike in
US assistance to Africa to $8.67 billion by 2010.
Bush, who has been largely consumed by the
war in Iraq for most of his two-term presidency,
announced that he would even visit the
impoverished African nations of Senegal,
Mozambique, Zambia and Mali to "see the results"
"Alleviating this suffering
requires bold action from America, it requires
America's leadership, and it requires the action
of developed nations as well. That's the message
I'm going to take with me to Europe ... when [his
wife] Laura and I go to the G8," he said.
Criticized repeatedly by activist groups
for not doing enough to stop the human tragedy
unfolding in Darfur, Sudan, Bush also unveiled a
series of sanctions that target top lieutenants of
the Sudanese regime, who are accused of organizing
attacks that have claimed at least 400,000 lives,
displaced 2.5 million people and left more than
3.5 million men, women and children struggling to
survive amid violence and starvation.
sanctioned 31 additional companies owned and
controlled by the Sudanese government, as well as
two senior Sudanese government officials. He is
expected to encourage US allies at the meeting,
including the European Union, to follow through
with similar sanctions.
He also pledged to
continue US efforts to help resuscitate the World
Trade Organization Doha Round of trade
negotiations, which seek to expand market access
in developing countries.
But the most
controversial announcement so far has been his
plan to deal with climate change.
president, whose country is the world's largest
economy and the largest polluter, proposed a
framework for developing a new international
agreement on curbing greenhouse-gas emissions that
would replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which
Washington has refused to ratify for fear that it
could thwart economic development.
plan would target 10-15 countries that consume the
most energy and emit the largest quantities of
greenhouse gases. Bush said he would urge other
leaders to increase their own investments in the
research and development of alternative power
sources to help reduce dependence on oil.
Those proposals will perhaps bolster his
position when he joins the leaders of Germany,
France, Japan, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom
and Russia at the G8 summit. After all, Bush is
challenged at home by congressional leaders who
have slammed his performance in eroding US
leadership on a number of multilateral issues.
He will be faced with the task of
improving relations with France, which chilled
under former president Jacques Chirac, especially
over the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The
new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, will have
his first meeting with Bush during this week's
It will also be the final summit
for Bush's No 1 friend in Europe, British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, who announced last month that
he would resign effective June 27. Blair will be
replaced by current Chancellor of the Exchequer
The most senior G8 leader,
Blair's popularity plummeted in large part because
of his support of the Iraq war and accusations
that he had manipulated intelligence to make a
case for the 2003 invasion.
Bush will also
visit Pope Benedict for the first time.
"Bush wants to have a very positive spin,
start relations off on the right foot with
[Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe and Sarkozy.
The Bush administration has changed its tune
somewhat on climate. I think that's very clear,"
said Julianne Smith, Europe program director at
the Center for Strategic and International
Studies, a Washington-based think-tank. "We now
have a Congress controlled by the Democrats.
That's made a difference.
"So the instinct
is to move away from, again, the shadows of Iraq
and try and craft some new action points for the
trans-Atlantic partners and try [to] keep the
wheels turning on that," said Smith.
analysts went as far as to suggest that Bush's
renewed interest in Africa and the challenge he
posed to other nations to follow suit on Darfur
are, at least in part, for media consumption, but
could indeed prompt positive responses from the
"This is the president trying
to articulate a position where he's got a good
legacy, and try [to] put that out front," said
former US under secretary of commerce Grant
Aldonas. "So part of it is PR [public relations].
But there is real substance here. This is
something the president believes in. So I do think
that there will have to be some response, simply
because, at least rhetorically, he's put the other
players between the sword and the wall."
Still, Bush's initiatives have failed to
placate civil-society groups in the US.
The environmental organization Friends of
the Earth described his proposal on climate change
as embarrassing to the United States "in front of
the entire planet".
The group is
collecting signatures of apology to be presented
at the German Embassy in Washington on Tuesday
from US citizens angry that the proposal would
only take effect after he leaves office, and would
The World Wide Fund for
Nature, another environmental group, released
"climate scorecards" on Monday that placed the
United States last among the G8 countries in terms
of action to halt global warming.
United States' bottom ranking underscores a
disconnect between Bush's announcement last week
and ongoing US attempts to block progress at G8
negotiations aimed at stopping dangerous climate
change," said the group.
Angela Merkel is calling on fellow heads of
government to reach a landmark deal at the G8
meeting. This should include a commitment to keep
global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and reduce
greenhouse-gas emissions by half before
mid-century compared with 1990 levels.
Other issues to be discussed at the summit
will be investment, innovation, relations with
Russia, and sustainability.