European Protests as Bush Heads for G-8 Summit

The protests in Europe started even before President Bush's scheduled departure Monday morning for an eight-day visit to six countries, including the G-8 summit in Germany.

Over the weekend, demonstrators in Germany were out protesting many issues, but Bush and Iraq are near the top of their list.

As for the president himself, he sounded this past week less like a war leader than the compassionate conservative of the 2000 campaign.

On Thursday, he said, "We are a compassionate nation. When Americans see suffering and know that our country can help to stop it, they expect our government to respond."

Before leaving for Europe, the president ran through a checklist of announcements he hopes he will play well there:

     He chose the popular and well-respected Robert Zoellick to replace the unpopular Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

     He announced new sanctions against Sudan in an effort to stem what he calls genocide in Darfur.

     He tried to calm environmentalists by proposing that the U.S. and other big polluters set a new goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

     He asked Congress to continue the fight against AIDS in Africa by doubling American aid.

All this in one week. What's going on?

Charles Kupchan, director of Europe studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News, "I think Bush is thinking about his legacy. He wants to present to the Europeans a kinder, gentler, nicer America.

"The last six years, it's been about the global war on terror — the use of force, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq," Kupchan said. "And I think he's turning to what he himself calls a more compassionate agenda."

German demonstrators may not have paid much attention to Bush's initiatives, but Kupchan thinks many other Europeans have.

"These are the sorts of things that I think the Europeans are happy to see," he said. "It doesn't mean they are going to love Bush for the remainder of his presidency. But I do think that it means that the relationship between the U.S. and Europe would be on a more even keel."

One leader at the G-8 summit who may not be impressed with Bush's compassion is Russia's Vladimir Putin. On Friday, after a week of nasty jibes at the United States, Putin told foreign journalists that if Bush goes ahead with a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, then Moscow will target its weapons against European countries.

For its part, the United States has accused Russia of bullying its neighbors and repressing its people.

The Bush-Putin relationship has grown rocky since their first meeting six years ago in Slovenia. At that time, Bush surprised many people with his enthusiasm for Putin, saying, "I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

On Friday, Steve Hadley, the president's national security advisor, was asked whether he has ever heard the president express second thoughts about Putin's soul. Hadley said no, but he has "heard [Bush] recognize that there are elements and directions there where he has concerns."

Hadley added that is why the president has been eager to have one-on-one meetings, so he can be "very candid about his concerns."

In addition to their meeting at the German summit, Bush has invited Putin to Kennebunkport, Maine, for a two-day visit on July 1 and 2.