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George HW Bush’s presidency transformed global relations

Robert B. Zoellick

By Robert B. Zoellick (original source Financial Times)

“Europeans who wonder about the benefits of ties with the US should recall the tenure of president George HW Bush. He entered the White House at a transformative moment for transatlantic and global relations. In four years, he left a greater legacy than most presidents achieve over two terms. In early 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union, excited Europeans with the prospect of ending the cold war. Bush told secretary of state James Baker that he wanted to meet Mr Gorbachev. Bush recognised that he led an alliance as well as the US, and needed to guide a cohesive Nato in the negotiations with the Soviets.

His first step, overlooked by most historians, was a bold proposal in May of that year to slash and equalise the conventional armies in Europe. This initiative pushed the negotiation of short-range missiles to the sidelines, easing tensions with Germans who feared their territory was the only nuclear battleground left after the elimination of intermediate range missiles.”

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