Nuke Talks Could Ruin Clinton's Valedictory Tour

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This is the season of legacy for Bill Clinton, and that means photo opportunities. The president arrived in Portugal Tuesday to kick off a seemingly haphazard European farewell tour — Lisbon, Aachen, Berlin, Moscow, Kiev — and immediately began to hit the loud notes of seven years of seemingly haphazard foreign policy. Judging by the agenda, they must be: global trade, "third way" governance, humanitarian intervention in Africa, global trade again (how many presidents take their secretaries of State and Commerce on the same trip?) and one voodoo-defense leftover from the Reagan years, the missile defense system. And while Clinton talks bananas and Frankenfood with the EU Wednesday and touts the 21st century world economy in Kiev, it will be his ongoing struggle to put his own happy epilogue on the Cold War that will make most of the headlines, and might just put a sour note on the president's last planned tour of the continent.

The Germans, as they hand Clinton the International Charlemagne Prize for his contributions to world peace and European unity Friday, will complain that a "Star Wars"-type missile defense system could kick off a new multinational arms race and decouple America's and Europe's security interests by isolating the U.S. behind the shield of its dreams. Expect similar resistance at Clinton's weekend summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin: the pair may finalize a deal to each destroy 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, but White House aides are setting expectations very, very low on the Star Wars discussions. "I do not expect any agreements to be reached on these issues," National Security Adviser Samuel Berger told CNN on Sunday. Anti-Western sentiment in Russia over NATO and Kosovo has mushroomed in the past few years, and the country is still mired in economic decrepitude despite the IMF's best efforts. Add years of non-progress on arms-control, and Berger may have unwittingly summed up Clinton's Russia legacy as well as anyone. But hey, how 'bout that global economy?