Jeb Bush arrives in Europe in the shadow of his brother’s legacy – Telegraph.co.uk
“I think the governor sees this trip as forward looking, not backward looking,” said Kenneth Juster, a former State Department official who advised on the trip.
“He really wants to discuss the importance of the transatlantic relationship and where it’s going. I don’t think he sees this in any respect as dealing with possible fallout of his brother’s administration.”
As well as meeting with Europeans about the global economy and the situation in Ukraine, the trip gives Mr Bush a chance to present himself to American voters as a leader comfortable on the world stage and as a serious foreign policy thinker in a crowded Republican field.
Aides said he has made 89 visits to 22 different countries since he finished his second term as governor of Florida in early 2007.
The 62-year-old will speak just before Angela Merkel at a major economic summit in Berlin on Tuesday before meeting with Polish officials on Thursday and touring a Nato cyber security facility in Estonia on Friday.
Another foreign policy adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Britain should not be concerned that Mr Bush is not following the path of several other Republican hopefuls and making a stop in London.
“I wouldn’t read anything into it,” the adviser said. “He’s been to the UK many times and it’s an essential relationship to us.”
London trips have proved a stumbling block for other Republicans hoping to be their party’s presidential candidate.
Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, was panned after refusing to answer a BBC journalist’s question about whether he believed in evolution during a February visit.
Mitt Romney’s 2012 trip turned into a disaster when he questioned whether London was ready for the Olympics, leading to Boris Johnson openly mocking him in front of a crowd in Hyde Park.
Mr Bush will instead begin his trip in Berlin, where he will speak at an economic conference organised by a business group closely linked to Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic party.
He is not scheduled to meet with Mrs Merkel but it is possible they may have a run-in encounter on the sidelines of the annual Wirtschaftsrat meeting.
Like Mrs Merkel, Mr Bush is a firm supporter of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the major free trade agreement currently being negotiated between the US and EU.
But he differs with her on other issues.
Mr Bush has said it “seems feckless” not to supply arms to the Ukrainian military to help them resist Russia’s intervention while Mrs Merkel strongly opposes escalating the conflict.
The Republican has also been a robust champion of the NSA, the American spy agency which tapped Mrs Merkel’s mobile phone and sparked outrage in Germany.
“He believes you deal in a collaborative way with your allies, which doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on everything,” said Mr Juster.
His Germany visit underscores the US belief that Berlin is what one adviser called “the centre point” of Europe and key to the global economy as well as security issues like sanctions against Russia and the Iran nuclear talks.
Mr Bush is an ardent supporter of Nato and has criticised Barack Obama for not taking a stronger stance against Vladimir Putin.
His message is likely to be welcomed in Poland and especially Estonia, a small country of just over a million people which has already been subjected to intense cyber attacks from Russia.
While George W Bush left office in 2008 immensely unpopular in western Europe, many countries in the east of the continent took a brighter view of the 43rd president.
A Pew Research survey in Poland, which joined in the 2003 Iraq invasion, found that 68 per cent of Poles had a favourable view of the US at the end of Mr Bush’s term.
Jeb Bush is heading to Germany+Poland. Germans soured on US by end of W’s presidency but the Poles kept the faith. pic.twitter.com/odxxjJeIng
— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez)
June 8, 2015
The equivalent number in Germany was 31 per cent while in Britain it was 53 per cent.
Jeb Bush has not spoken publicly on the major questions facing Europe like the ongoing standoff between Greece and its creditors or whether Britain remains in the EU after its referendum.
Advisers said part of the reason for the trip was to learn more about the economic and security issues facing Europe. “He’ll be listening to European leaders as well as imparting his own thoughts and ideas,” one said.