This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, June 8, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
TONY SNOW, HOST: President Bush will head to Europe next week for a meeting with fellow heads of state and the European Union, many of whom have criticized the president's policies on everything from missile defense to global warming. Here to talk about the upcoming trip, Richard Perle, former assistant secretary of defense for international security policy and currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Mr. Perle, let's start off by talking about missile defense. We've had Colin Powell go and ask the Europeans "Please support us." We've had Donald Rumsfeld go to the Europeans and say "Please support us." They said "No." What should the president do?
RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I think if we ask them a third time and they say no, then we can get on with the business of building a missile defense.
PERLE: The fact is, it really doesn't matter very much whether the Europeans support us or not. They're not offering to defend us from Saddam Hussein or the North Koreans or anyone else who may acquire a nuclear missile. They have their security concerns, and we have ours. They're not identical in every case, and it's a mistake to think that we can only
proceed with their approval.
Having said all of that, I think they're moving gradually in the direction of recognizing that it is right that we should defend ourselves from a threat that we have identified and recognized.
SNOW: To what extent has the European criticism so far been a function of the fact that America-bashing is popular in certain countries?
PERLE: I think America-bashing is popular. It's one of the results of the Western victory in the cold war. During the cold war, a lot of Europeans who depended for the United States for protection in a very fundamental way were reluctant to criticize.
After all, we were their protector. Now they no longer need our protection in -- in the same way, and so they feel much freer to criticize. It's only normal. In fact, we're actually getting a rather normal situation. A lot of these governments are left-wing governments.
SNOW: But there's a little bit of a change. We've seen the Berlusconi government in Italy. We've got a new government in Spain. And even Tony Blair, to a certain extent, has expressed some willingness to help out the president on this. Do we see shifting politics in Europe once again?
PERLE: Well, we're beginning to see a shift, and the Berlusconi election in Italy is a very welcome development. It will be a much more sober, sensible government in -- in Rome. And I think we may see some further shifts along -- along those lines.
Tony Blair is the first Labour prime minister to sound a lot like Margaret Thatcher, and that may be why he got elected. So on the other hand, we have some pretty left-wing governments. There was a speech the other day by the French prime minister in which he called for a socialist Europe, passionately called for a socialist Europe. So there's division
there. And the criticism is coming mostly from the left.
SNOW: There is some concern that Europe, if it gets its act together, could, in fact, become a strategic -- maybe not a competitor to the United States but a challenger, in many ways. Is that a realistic fear?
PERLE: I don't think so. First of all, I don't think the Europeans are going to get together. There are different cultures, histories, attitudes on almost any issue. But even if they did, there's no reason to believe that they would get together in a way that was hostile to the
United States. After everything is said and done, we are all democracies. We have common values and interests that outweigh the differences. And there's plenty of room to debate the differences without being unduly concerned and without believing that we must abandon policies that are good for America because some German decides they're not good for Germany or a Frenchman decides they're not good for France.
SNOW: Ultimately, what is the basis? Can you explain the basis for European opposition to ripping up the ABM treaty, which, after all, was signed in 1972? It really is a cold war relic. Why on earth would they be afraid of that now?
PERLE: I think a lot of Europeans are mired in the Cold War. They can't see beyond the Cold War. They are still thinking very much in Cold War terms. I spent the last 10 days talking to a great many Europeans, and it's very interesting to see how readily you can get a serious discussion going on these issues once you lay out a very different vision of the future. I hope the president's going to do that. To believe that we have to negotiate every detail of our defense with the Russians implies that we're still enemies, and we're not. The Cold War is over.
SNOW: Let's move to global warming. European heads of state have been pushing, clamoring, it seems, for the Kyoto climate accord, treaty. Nevertheless, we have heard earlier in tonight's broadcast that Christine Whitman, our own EPA administrator, says, "Look, the Europeans can't even meet the standards themselves." What should the president do about Kyoto?
PERLE: Well, not one of the Europeans, as I understand it, European countries, could meet the Kyoto standards, and they all knew that. The president could have -- perhaps he should have -- simply sent it to the Senate for a vote and allowed 50 Democrats to vote against it because there was no support for it in this country. So there's a lot of hypocrisy among
Clearly, we need to come to grips with the implications of global warming. We need programs to deal with it, and some hard work is going to have to be done. But Kyoto would not have solved the problem, would not have been implemented.
SNOW: Do you think these kind of criticisms we've talked about both with defense and climate change are functions of the fact that Europeans are still trying to figure out whether George Bush is a serious man? Do they have doubts about him?
PERLE: Well, if they have doubts, I think those doubts will be resolved when they meet him because he's a very serious man who goes right to the heart of the issue. I think he's going to surprise others, as he surprised Tony Blair, I think, when he was at Camp David for an extended visit with the president. Yes, I think there's probably an element of that. And of course, if you're a European politician, beating up the United States over Kyoto is a good way to ingratiate yourself with your Greens. It doesn't cost anything. It's easy. It's cheap.
SNOW: Yeah, it's easier and cheaper, that is, than trying to enact it yourself. As I understand it, the only country that's actually ratified Kyoto is Romania.
SNOW: So when all this is done, the president comes back, do you expect to see any significant progress, or is this mainly a "getting to know you" meeting?
PERLE: I think this is a "get to know you" meeting. It would be foolish to expect that the governments, many of which are on the left, are suddenly going to embrace the policies of a conservative Republican administration. That's not the president's mission. I think he will return from this trip with a better understanding of their thinking, and they surely will have a better understanding of his.
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