WASHINGTON – On his second European trip in five weeks, President Bush hopes to rally the world's richest nations to fight AIDS, poverty and economic isolationism.
He will test his personal charm when he sees Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II, and will rally U.S. troops in Kosovo.
But he will not be able to dodge some of the thorny issues that hampered his first overseas visit: missile defense, global warming and the gnawing perception among U.S. allies that Bush ignores their pleas with a go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.
To French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, it is a "unilateralist mindset."
"We must hope that this trip ... will help the American administration evolve toward more negotiating and openness to our points of view," Vedrine said in advance of the president's seven-day trip — beginning Wednesday — to Britain, Italy and Kosovo.
Unlike that first trip, when Bush toured five nations in five days, the president is easing his way into action. He arrives in London on Wednesday night and gets some sleep, then goes sightseeing Thursday before meeting the queen and Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace.
That evening, he meets with Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country estate, Chequers.
Though the closest of U.S. allies, even Britain declined last week to support setting aside the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to make way for Bush's missile defense system.
The issue will shadow Bush the next three days in Genoa, Italy, where he attends a summit of the world's seven wealthiest nations, plus Russia.
Because many oppose his missile shield plan, Bush hopes to shift focus to:
— Trade. Advisers predict summit participants will seek a new round of global trade talks.
— AIDS. An international AIDS fund, started by the United States with a $200 million pledge, could top $1 billion after donations from other nations and groups are combined at the summit, according to administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
— Poverty. The president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said the AIDS proposal is critical to alleviating poverty in developing countries. The United States is expected to also push for an increase in World Bank grants, as opposed to loans, for nations in need, the administration officials said.
Organizers are bracing for thousands of protesters against globalization, poverty and other issues. Inside the secure zones, Bush plans to argue that wealthy nations have a moral imperative to fight poverty by promoting economic development and trade.
He might get feisty. In early drafts of one Bush speech, the president suggests that the protesters do not speak for the poor, U.S. sources said.
Also in Genoa, he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin — the second in a series of sessions this year that Bush hopes will thaw Moscow's objections to his missile shield dreams.
Despite talk of compromise during his first meeting with Bush, Putin has continued to warn the United States against scrapping the arms control treaty.
Aides expect the pair to announce a schedule for future meetings between their ministers, including top military advisers, aimed at closing differences.
Predicting no major breakthroughs in Genoa, Rice said, "They're going to try to move the ball forward."
On global warming, Bush hoped to blunt widespread criticism for his rejection of a 1997 international climate change treaty by pledging last week to spend nearly $200 million on research.
Junichiro Koizumi, the popular new Japanese prime minister, may emerge as a mediator between the United States and its European allies during the Genoa summit.
Though Japan supports the treaty, Koizumi said during his recent Camp David meeting with Bush that Japan does not want to go forward without the United States. A task force report prepared in advance of the summit urges the leaders to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and devote more money for nonpolluting energy sources such as wind, water and solar power.
Such a plan opposed by the White House, based on the president's desire to let the market determine how quickly renewable energy sources are adopted worldwide and his belief that many developing countries are not ready to make the quick transition from fossil fuels.
Objections to the phase-out from the United States and perhaps Canada would likely keep it from the summit's final communique, U.S. officials said. But they said the communique was expected to include language, supported by the Bush administration, that strongly embraces the expanded use of renewable energy.
From Genoa, Bush goes to Rome, where he will meet Italian leaders, and then to the papal retreat, Castel Gandolfo. Bush is trying to decide whether to fund embryonic stem cell research, which the Catholic hierarchy staunchly opposes.
His last stop is Pristina, Kosovo, for an update on peacekeeping operations and lunch with the troops at Camp Bondsteel.
Analysts such as Antony Blinken, chief European adviser to President Clinton, said Bush's first trip was a modest success. He left a favorable impression with foreign leaders, even as they vented their differences.
On his second lap of Europe, Bush hopes to avoid the small mistakes of his maiden trip — he mispronounced the name of Spain's prime minister — as well as the larger ones. His own aides winced when Bush said he looked into Putin's soul and saw a wellspring of trust.
"That wasn't exactly a confidence-building statement," said Steven Wayne, a presidential scholar at Georgetown University. "It made Americans question whether he understood the complicated, nuanced aspects of foreign policy."