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Europe Reacts with Relief, Optimism to U.S. Changes


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.



And I'm Renee Montagne.

Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is due to cross Europe as the architect of the war in Iraq. He's also remembered for his famous dismissal of France and Germany as old Europe, when they opposed his plans for the Iraqi invasion.

We turn to NPR's Rob Gifford now. He's in London. We want to find out how Rumsfeld's resignation, coupled with the Democrat's gain in Congress, has gone down in Europe. Good morning.

ROB GIFFORD: Morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So Britain has been a partner in the Iraq war, a real stalwart, if you will. Are you, are we seeing any difference in reaction between Britain and what might be called the old Europe of France and Germany?


GIFFORD: Not really, because as you'll recall, it was very much the British government that went into Iraq with the U.S. government and many, many British people, and certainly a lot in the U.S. and in the British media opposed it -very much like those in old Europe, as Rumsfeld called them - in France and Germany. So the headlines and the editorials had been as nearly unanimous, really. The Times, here in London, called it overdue but welcome.

The Guardian editorial simply said thank you America. The Spiegel in Germany called it the end of a six-year nightmare. And Le Monde in Paris said Bush doesn't know hot to make war or peace. So universally welcomed, really, across Europe.

MONTAGNE: And what - and that includes public opinion. Is that rolling in?

GIFFORD: Yes. I think so. I think there is just a feeling here in Europe, in the government and among - and among European people, that Democrats are much more the sort of Americans who are more internationalists, who take into account other people's opinions. And - and that the Republicans really, and certainly the Bush administration and Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney - the whole sort of go it alone policy, without taking into consideration any opposition to the war in Iraq especially - it just, it just did not go down well over here. So right across the board, I think, in governments and in public opinion, we're seeing a welcome.

MONTAGNE: And does this is add up to a sort of mending of the transatlantic relationship, at least as far as Rumsfeld is concerned?

GIFFORD: I think it does to some extent. Although, I think a lot of politicians over here have seen that already, beginning before yesterday. I spoke to someone in the German government, yesterday, who deals specifically with the United States on a day-to-day basis. And he said, well, you know, we're dealing with the U.S. government everyday, just because its people don't necessarily like the people who are in power, that doesn't mean that you can just say, you can just opt out. He welcomed the gains of the Democrats, but he said, he said they were under no illusions really - for another two years President Bush will still be the man to deal with.

MONTAGNE: Even so, with those Democratic gains, do Europeans see the Democrats as a sort of better partners - and perhaps they have more influence on U.S. policy, generally?

GIFFORD: I think they do, definitely. The question is though, how much influence will the Democrats have. Of course, everybody is asking that question. And one article in the Daily Telegraph in London this morning, talked about the incoherence of the Democrats. They're simply the un-Republicans. And so, I think people here do not want to see gridlock in the U.S. capital, and they'll be looking for very concrete ideas and plans to come out of the Democratic Party.

MONTAGNE: Rob, thanks for joining us.

GIFFORD: Thanks very much, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Rob Gifford speaking from London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.