By THOMAS BEAUMONT
BERLIN (AP) — Jeb Bush plans to call for deepening U.S. economic ties with its European allies during a speech Tuesday in Germany, and to make the case that the two nations should also work more closely on issues of global security.
It’s hardly a radical message for the former Florida governor, who will step onto the international stage for the first time as a presidential candidate when addressing one of Europe’s most prominent economic conferences.
The U.S. and Germany — as well as Poland and Estonia, the two nations Bush will visit later in the week — are NATO allies who work closely together on a host of diplomatic issues, ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to Russia’s meddling in Ukraine. Germany is also the U.S.’s strongest European trading partner.
President Barack Obama on Monday wrapped up a two-day Group of Seven meeting at a Bavarian resort at which he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel displayed their personal affection — she called him “dear Barack” — and pledged to continue the two nations’ close ties and joint diplomatic projects.
But Bush advisers say he believes Obama has ceded to Germany too much of the diplomatic burden in Europe for winning approval for sanctions against Russia for its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine — a difficult task, given Russia’s deep economic relationships on the continent.
It’s a subtle distinction, given that the United States and the European Union have parallel sanctions regimes against Russia, and the U.S. and Germany, which leads the European effort, consult frequently on the issue. European leaders — particularly French President Francois Hollande and Merkel — have taken the lead on Russian-Ukraine peace agreements.
The message, said Kenneth Juster, a foreign policy aide to Bush and partner at the global investment firm Warburg Pincus, is “that when we deal with our allies, we do so in a collaborative manner, especially in addressing challenges from our adversaries.”
Bush is speaking Tuesday to the economic council of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Bush also plans to meet privately with business and government leaders in Germany, Poland and Estonia over the course of the week to discuss the security threats to the region and to each individually.
Bush advisers say Poland is an economic success story, a home to outsourced labor of German manufacturers that’s warily watching Russia’s aggression toward former Eastern bloc states.
One such state, Estonia, has a booming information technology industry — engineers in Estonia invented Skype — that survived a cyberattack from Russia in 2007 that knocked out many of the small Baltic country’s online government services.
“Both the United States and the European Union are confronted by legitimate security concerns and middle-class concerns, including lack of wage growth,” said Kristen Silverberg, a Bush adviser and former ambassador to the European Union during President George W. Bush’s second term.
Although Jeb Bush has traveled extensively overseas while and since serving two terms as Florida governor, the trip is aimed primarily at strengthening his credentials overseas, an area of experience often seen as lacking in state governors who run for president.
Bush is scheduled to formally declare his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination next week.
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