President George W. Bush, already weakened at home by the soaring cost of oil, is finding that it's also eroding his ability to achieve his foreign-policy goals.
``It's a geopolitical nightmare,'' says William Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary under President Bill Clinton who is now chairman of the Cohen Group, a Washington-based consulting firm. Such nations as Iran, Russia and China ``don't see us as the colossus that can cause them any harm, either by our economy or by our prestige.''
Record-high energy prices are weakening Bush's prospects of assembling an international coalition to counter Iran's nuclear ambitions. They are diminishing his chances of influencing energy-rich nations such as Russia and isolating troublesome ones including Venezuela and Sudan. And they are straining U.S. economic and diplomatic ties with China, whose oil needs are skyrocketing.
Prices show no signs of abating in the last two-and-a-half years of Bush's presidency, with oil futures hovering near $72 a barrel through the November 2008 presidential election. That's creating a windfall for oil-producing nations that may thwart Bush's goal of promoting democracy and free markets from Asia to the Middle East and halting the spread of nuclear arms...
``The high crude prices have tied Bush's hands,'' says David Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn International Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm, and an assistant energy secretary during the Clinton administration. ``These very high prices really empower other leaders to act with impunity.''
It isn't only oil producers that are ignoring U.S. wishes. China, the world's second-largest consumer of petroleum products behind the U.S., is seeking energy resources wherever it can find them. That includes negotiating for investments in nations such as Iran, Nigeria and Sudan, where Bush is seeking to improve human rights and push democracy.
Chinese President Hu Jintao followed his April 20 visit to the U.S. with a trip to Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, to seek drilling rights. China has accounted for more than 40 percent of the growth in global oil demand during the past four years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has frustrated the Bush administration by rolling back democratic rights in his country and seeking to dominate former Soviet republics. Putin has also been reluctant to pressure North Korea and Iran to not develop nuclear weapons. He has resisted U.S. efforts to impose sanctions on Iran, as has China.
He's a regular right-wing Jimmy Carter, Bush is.