Before Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush launched his European trip last week, the former governor realized he’d face skeptical audiences. After all, Europeans weren’t fond of Bush’s brother and they didn’t want to hear someone echo George W. Bush’s foreign policies.
As it turns out, Jeb Bush ended up sounding a bit like another president: Barack Obama.
Eli Stokols reported for Politico over the weekend that Bush “offered little to differentiate himself from Obama’s cautious, consensus-driven approach to confronting Russian leader Vladimir Putin.” Sure, the Republican did some modest saber-rattling, but it was ultimately shallow and hollow – Bush was eager to say how much he disagrees with Obama, except there were few details to back this up.
Bush endorsed an offensive against ISIS, for example, which Obama has already done. Bush even agreed with Obama on Georgia or Ukraine possibly joining NATO.
Perhaps the most substantive area of disagreement was Bush’s call for increased military support in Eastern Europe, except as the New York Times reported, Obama’s apparently moving forward with similar plans of his own.
In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence.
James Stavridis, a retired admiral and the former supreme allied commander of NATO, who is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, told the Times, “This is a very meaningful shift in policy.”
It’s worth emphasizing that there’s been no official announcement about the administration’s policy, and this proposal has not yet been approved by the Pentagon or the White House. The article added that senior officials “expected approval to come before the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels this month.”
But as a political matter, I look forward to watching Republicans struggle with the challenge of condemning the president’s approach while simultaneously agreeing with it.