Bush says Russian aggression requires stronger US action
BERLIN (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is warning Russia that if he becomes president, the U.S. will step up its actions to counter Vladimir Putin's aggression, especially in Ukraine and eastern Europe.
In excerpts released before Bush's speech Tuesday to a prominent European economic conference, Bush asks: "Who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if its aggression goes unanswered?"
"Our alliance, our solidarity and our actions are essential if we want to preserve the fundamental principles of our international order, an order that free nations have sacrificed so much to build," Bush says, according to remarks provided by his aides.
Bush provided no detail for how he would ensure that "Ukraine, a sovereign European nation, must be permitted to choose its own path."
More broadly, Bush called for the deepening of economic and security ties with eastern European nations, vulnerable to potential Russian meddling. Bush is on a three-country visit this week, which also includes former Eastern bloc countries Poland and Estonia.
"Russia must respect the sovereignty of all of its neighbors," Bush said.
It's hardly a radical message for the former Florida governor, who is making his first foreign speech as a presidential contender.
Bush, like most Republican White House prospects, supports economic sanctions on Russia and sending military equipment and economic aid to Ukraine, where separatists, believed backed by Putin, are fighting pro-independence forces.
The U.S. and Germany — as well as Poland and Estonia — are NATO allies that work closely together on a host of diplomatic issues, among them Ukraine and Iran's nuclear program. Germany is also the U.S.'s strongest European trading partner, and Bush has praised Estonia and Poland as fast emerging free-market success stories.
President Barack Obama on Monday wrapped up a two-day Group of Seven meeting at a Bavarian resort where he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel affirmed ties between the two nations.
And while it's popular for Republican presidential prospects to condemn Putin, it's also a way to criticize the Obama administration's foreign policy, carried out during his first term by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, now a Democratic presidential candidate.
Bush has said Obama has ceded to Germany too much of the diplomatic burden in Europe, chiefly for rallying approval for sanctions against Russia for its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. European leaders, particularly French President Francois Hollande and Merkel, have taken the lead on Russian-Ukraine peace agreements.
Bush's trip comes in the lead-up to his plan to announce his presidential candidacy Monday in Miami. Some of his rivals have already made visits abroad.
Last week, Bush aides confirmed that he plans to seek the 2016 Republican nomination, as has been widely expected since he formed a political action committee early in the year and began raising tens of millions of dollars to fuel it.
Bush is expected to meet Merkel informally Tuesday evening at the conference where they are both speaking, though the two are not meeting privately. They are addressing the economic council of the Christian Democratic Union, the political party Merkel leads.
Bush also was scheduled to meet Germany's finance minister, Poland's president and president-elect, and Estonia's president.
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. Governors who run for president often lack foreign policy experience or are seen that way.
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