On December 13, 2001, President Bush announced the withdrawal of the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a bedrock of U.S.–Soviet nuclear stability during the Cold War era. Bush stated, "I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks." According to the announcement, the withdrawal was to become effective six months from that date. The National Missile Defense project Bush supported is being designed to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles and destroy them in flight. Critics doubted that the project could ever work and said that it would cost US$53 billion from 2004 to 2009, being the largest single line item in the Pentagon's funding.
The Bush presidency was also marked by diplomatic tensions with the People's Republic of China and North Korea, the latter of which admitted in 2003 to having been in the process of building nuclear weapons and threatened to use them if provoked by the U.S. The administration was concerned that Iran may also be developing nuclear weapons, although Iran has denied such allegations, maintaining that it is pursuing peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Bush made his first visit to Europe in June 2001. Bush came under criticism from European leaders for the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, which was aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. He asserted that the Kyoto Protocol is "unfair and ineffective" because it would exempt 80 percent of the world and "cause serious harm to the U.S. economy".
Many governments have criticized the failure of the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed but not submitted for ratification by the previous administration. Former President Bill Clinton recommended that his successor not submit the treaty for ratification until the wording was altered to reflect U.S. concerns. Bush, who was opposed to the treaty, rescinded U.S. executive approval from the proposed treaty. In 1997, prior to the Kyoto negotiations, the Byrd–Hagel Resolution passed in the U.S. Senate by a 95–0 vote. The resolution stated that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing nations as well as industrialized ones, or that "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States".
The International Criminal Court came into being on July 1, 2002. The ICC is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.
Later that year, in August 2002, the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA) was passed by the United States Congress with the stated intention "to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not a party."
Bush supported free trade policies and legislation but resorted to protectionist policies on occasion. Tariffs on imported steel imposed by the White House in March 2002 were lifted after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled them illegal. Bush explained that the safeguard measures had "achieved their purpose", and "as a result of changed economic circumstances", it was time to lift them. On August 31, 2004, WTO arbitrators authorized the European Union and other leading U.S. trade partners to impose economic sanctions against the United States for violation of global trade laws. The decision by the WTO was one of several cases where the U.S. was found to have been in breach of international trade rules.
However, Bush pursued and signed free trade agreements between with several countries, including Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Morocco, Oman, Peru, Singapore, Ukraine, and with six countries under the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
The Bush Administration released its "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" in December 2002. The strategy includes three key elements: counterproliferation to combat the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), strengthened nonproliferation to combat WMD proliferation, and consequence management to respond to WMD use. The classified version of this strategy reportedly reserved the right to use overwhelming force, including potentially nuclear weapons, in response to a WMD attack against the United States, its forces or allies.
In February 2004, in the context of recent revelations about clandestine nuclear programs in Iran and Libya, and the role of the A. Q. Khan network in proliferation of sensitive nuclear technology, Bush proposed seven initiatives:
- Cooperation on law enforcement for interdiction of WMD trade, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative;
- Passage of a UN Security Council Resolution requiring states to enact WMD-related controls, which led to UN Security Council Resolution 1540;
- Expansion of the G8 Global Partnership to eliminate WMD and secure WMD materials worldwide;
- Reliable access to nuclear fuel, accompanied by a ban on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology to countries that do not already have such facilities;
- Making the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol a condition for nuclear supply, and ratification of the U.S. Additional Protocol;
- Establishing a Special Committee of the IAEA Board of Governors on safeguards and verification to strengthen compliance and enforcement; and
- Excluding countries under investigation for nonproliferation violations from serving on the Board or the Special Committee.
Of the US$2.4 trillion budgeted for 2005, about $450 billion was planned to be spent on defense. This level was generally comparable to the defense spending during the Cold War. Congress approved $87 billion for U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in November, and had approved an earlier $79 billion package the previous spring. Most of the funds were for military operations in the two countries.
The ratio of defense spending of the U.S. and its allies to its potential adversaries, for the year 2000, was about 6 to 1.
In July 2002, Bush cut off all funding, approximately $34 million, for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This funding had been allocated by Congress the previous December. Bush claimed that the UNFPA supported forced abortions and sterilizations in China. His justification came from a group of members of Congress who oppose abortion and an anti-abortion organization called the Population Research Institute, which claimed to have obtained first-hand video taped evidence from victims of forced abortion and forced sterilization in counties where the UNFPA operates in China. This accusation has never been supported by any investigation, and has in fact been disproved by the US State Department, UK, and UN teams sent to examine UNFPA activities in China. The UNFPA points out that it "does not provide support for abortion services". Its charter includes a strong statement condemning coercion."
The Bush administration continued to withhold funding through 2007, and fought Congressional efforts to require an explanation of its decision to block the funds. Women's rights groups criticized the decision and pointed out that the PRI refused to release information that would allow the team to locate the women, and thus no independent verification of PRI's claims was possible.
On July 21, 2004, in a statement on the fiftieth anniversary of the Food for Peace program, Bush hailed the United States for feeding the hungry. Noting that "Millions are facing great affliction...," he stated that "America has a special calling to come to their aid...." After the 2004 election, however, the Bush administration told several private charities that it would not be honoring previous funding commitments. The shortfall, estimated at $100 million, forced the charities to suspend or eliminate programs that had already been approved to improve farming, education and health in order to promote self-sufficiency in poor countries.
While the United States continued to give large amounts of aid abroad, the George W. Bush presidency was criticized for having a major impact upon the Millennium Development Goals project of the United Nations. Many nations, including key OECD members, were criticized for falling far short of their promise to give 0.7% of their GDP in order to drastically reduce poverty by the target date of 2015.
In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, Bush outlined a five-year strategy for global emergency AIDS relief, the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. The emergency relief effort was led by U.S. Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, former CEO of Eli Lilly and Global AIDS Coordinator at the Department of State. At the time of the speech, $9 billion was earmarked for new programs in AIDS relief for the 15 countries most affected by HIV/AIDS, another $5 billion for continuing support of AIDS relief in 100 countries where the U.S. already had bilateral programs established, and an additional $1 billion towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This budget represented more money contributed to fight AIDS globally than all other donor countries combined.
As the largest national economy in the world, the United States' leadership and commitment was seen as vital in addressing world poverty and ensuring implementation of the project, considered the most progressive and feasible to date for the United Nations or any other institution.
President George W. Bush signed a multimillion-dollar aid deal with the government of Tanzania on February 17, 2008. George W. Bush, cheering Liberians to rebound from Second Liberian Civil War that left their nation in ruins, said February 21, 2008 that the United States will keep lending a hand to make Liberia a symbol of liberty for Africa and the world. President George W. Bush ordered the release of $200 million in emergency aid to help countries in Africa and elsewhere. Riots from Haiti to Bangladesh to Egypt over surging food prices catapulted the issue to the forefront of the world's attention.
On September 11, 2001, two hijacked planes were flown into and destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane was aimed at the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after being averted by passengers from its target, believed to be the U.S. Capitol. In reaction to this, the US led a NATO invasion of Afghanistan, instigating the "Global War on Terror". NATO forces scoured the region for 9/11 alleged mastermind Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network Al-Qaeda and drove the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime, which was sheltering and providing sanctuary for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, from power. However once Bin Laden left Afghanistan and took up sanctuary in Pakistan, Bush said that he was "not that concerned about him" as the Al-Qaeda leader continued to plot attacks against America.
Major criticisms started to emerge from international human rights organizations about the United States policy of detaining alleged Taliban and Al-Qaeda combatants and refusing to grant these detainees their rights as prisoners of war as detailed in the Geneva Conventions. Other allegations stated that numerous captured Taliban fighters possessed no link to either Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead these fighters had the misfortune of being forcibly recruited into the Taliban military during the American invasion. The practice of impressment was systematic of the Taliban regime which would raid villages for able bodied men to serve on the front lines for a specific time period.
President Bush and his administration labelled the detainees as "unlawful combatants" deemed to pose a threat to the U.S. or to have information about terrorist structures, plans and tactics. The administration has said that such detainees can be held for "as long as necessary". Critics claim that anyone accused of a crime has a right to a fair trial and question whether people like Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, can be called an "unlawful combatant". In the case of Zaeef, they claim he cannot be a "combatant" because he was crippled during the Soviet occupation and that he wasn't "unlawful" because he was ambassador of his country. The Bush Administration and its supporters claim that the war against America by Al-Qaeda is ongoing, that it is unconventional, and that the "battlefield" extends into the U.S. itself. According to the declassified April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, "United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of Al-Qaeda and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes Al-Qaeda, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts."
Although the Bush administration released over 100 detainees and authorized military tribunals for the rest, the legal framework governing them has been slow in the making. According to Human Rights Watch, as of January 2004, "the public still [did] not know who the detainees are, what they [had] allegedly done, and whether and when they will be charged with crimes or released. There [had] been no hearings to determine the legal status of detainees and no judicial review—in short, no legal process at all." In February 2002 the United States began releasing several dozen detainees to their home countries, including many British and Pakistani nationals. The British detainees were briefly investigated and cleared of any British charges within 24 hours of their arrival.
The domestic political equation changed in the U.S. after the September 11, 2001 attacks, bolstering the influence of the neoconservative faction of the administration and throughout Washington. The conflict in Afghanistan, and the events that had launched the war, coincided with a reassessment of foreign policy by the administration, which President Bush articulated in his first State of the Union message on January 29, 2002. Previously, September 11 had underscored the threat of attacks from terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, as opposed to nation-states, and U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan targeted the ruling Taliban militia for having harbored al-Qaeda sponsor Osama bin Laden. Now speaking of an "axis of evil" comprising Iran, North Korea, and Iraq in his address to Congress, Bush claimed that he was preparing to open a new front in the U.S global "war on terrorism". Bush declared, "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror." Announcing that he would possibly take action to topple the Iraqi government, he claimed, "The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade."
Beginning with the Iraq Liberation Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the U.S. government officially called for regime change in Iraq. The Republican Party's campaign platform of 2000 called for "full implementation" of the act and removal of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, with a focus on rebuilding a coalition, tougher sanctions, reinstating inspections, and support for the Iraqi National Congress.
In November 2001, Bush asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to begin developing a plan for war. By early 2002 Bush began publicly pressing for regime change, indicating that his government had reason to believe that the Iraqi government had ties to terrorist groups, was developing weapons of mass destruction and did not cooperate sufficiently with United Nations weapons inspectors. In January 2003, Bush was convinced that diplomacy was not working and started notifying allies such as Saudi Arabia that war was imminent.
Although no agreement on authorizing force could be found within the United Nations Security Council, the war was ultimately launched in March 2003, after Bush, in a speech on March 17 effectively had declared war on Iraq, along with a declaration of his objectives as "assuring [the] national security" of the United States, and "no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms."
Saddam Hussein was deposed and went into hiding on April 10 when Baghdad was captured, and was subsequently located and arrested in December. The occupation would ultimately prove difficult, with many Iraqis and foreigners launching attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. Eventually, the U.S. death toll in the post-war occupation surpassed that of the actual war itself. Thousands of civilians were killed during the invasion and by resistance fighters. Nevertheless, Bush remained optimistic, hailing the "victory" and such developments as the signing of the Iraqi Constitution.
Throughout the course of the Iraq war, Bush was often the target of harsh criticism. Both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world there were numerous anti-war protests, particularly before the war's onset. See Popular opposition to war on Iraq, and Protests against the 2003 Iraq war. Even before the invasion it was clear to many observers that insufficient planning had been made for the stability of post-war Iraq.
Criticism also came from the governments of many countries, notably from many on the United Nations Security Council, who argued that the war broke international law. (Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that "...all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land..." and that "...all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution...", while Article III states that the judicial power of the US Supreme Court extends to "all ... Treaties made". This makes a violation of international law also a violation of the "supreme Law of The Land" of America, and withholds immunity from government officials, including the president.) See Worldwide government positions on war on Iraq and The UN Security Council and the Iraq war. For its part, the U.S. administration soon presented a list of countries called the coalition of the willing which supported its position. A later aspect of the criticism has been the death toll in Iraq; over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and 4000 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war mainly during the ensuing insurgency and civil war. In 2004, public assertions by Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke raised questions about the credibility of the Bush administration's pre-war claims. Both presented evidence that questioned how focused the Bush administration was on combating Al-Qaeda (which was operating out of Afghanistan, not Iraq) before September 11. Specifically, O'Neill presented classified and unclassified documents indicating that planning for a war with Iraq and the subsequent occupation began at the first National Security Council meeting and continued with each meeting. Clarke presented testimony and witnesses concerning how Bush and much of his cabinet tried to find excuses to attack Iraq immediately after September 11, such as associating it with September 11, claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, and claiming that Iraq posed an imminent threat, which implied that a war against Iraq would be legal by Article 51 of the U.N. Charter.
Testimony at the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (ongoing during March 2004) has included claims of how much of the Bush administration's immediate post-9/11 emphasis on Iraq was appropriate and proportional to the overall picture of terrorism, especially in light of the administration's subsequent decision to pursue military action in Afghanistan first, the fact that organizations accused of 9/11 are in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and that no links have been found between these organizations and Saddam Hussein. The Commission's report is expected to be released before the Presidential election. On June 16, 2004, the USA's 9/11 Commission filed an initial report on its findings, stating that it found "no credible evidence" of a "collaborative relationship" between pre-invasion Iraq and Al-Qaeda or of Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
The inability of the U.S. to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has led to greater domestic criticism of the administration's Iraq policy. Several of the statements that Bush and his administration made leading up to the war in Iraq, especially those involving claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, have been criticized as misleading or inaccurate. Particularly controversial was Bush's claim in the 2003 State of the Union Address that British Intelligence had discovered that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa. Officials and diplomats disputed the evidence for this claim, especially after a document describing an attempted purchase from Niger, which was presented to the United Nations Security Council by Colin Powell, was found to be a forgery. This led to a public embarrassment for George Tenet, the director of the CIA, as well as the Valerie Plame scandal. Much criticism on these issues has come from political opponents of Bush. The Iraq war was a significant issue in the 2004 Democratic primary, including the campaigns of Howard Dean, John Kerry, Al Sharpton, and Dennis Kucinich.
However, State Department documents declassified in 2006 cite hundreds of weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq. Nonetheless, it was soon quickly revealed that the particular weapons in question were WMD Saddam had obtained during the Iran-Iraq war, which had long since become stale and non-functional.
On March 24, 2004, Bush joked about the weapons of mass destruction issue at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. While showing slides of himself searching the Oval Office, he joked, "those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere ... nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?" Some found it tasteless of him to be joking about the issue. Others defended the joke as being in line with the self-deprecatory sort of humor that has come to be expected of Presidents when they speak at that event.
On September 26, 2006, Bush declassified the key judgments of the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate. The estimate, titled Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, states the following: "We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere. The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."
On December 1, 2008, during an interview with ABC World News, Bush stated "The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein..."I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign and say, 'Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack'...I didn't anticipate war." and on early withdrawal of troops, "It was a tough call, particularly, since a lot of people were advising for me to get out of Iraq, or pull back in Iraq,"
On December 14, 2008, during a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Bush was publicly insulted when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at the President as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. The offender, later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi, leapt from his chair and quickly hurled first one shoe and then the other at the president, who was about 20 feet away. Bush successfully dodged both projectiles which were aimed at his head. Zeidi worked for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo. He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they left the room. "So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States. Al-Baghdadia's Baghdad manager told the Associated Press he had no idea what prompted his reporter to go on the attack. The Iraqi government has demanded an on-air apology from his employer.
There has been much controversy surrounding Iran and its nuclear program in the past few years. The controversy centers on the Iranian enrichment of uranium. Iran officials have stated that they are enriching the uranium to fuel civilian reactors as permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other international agreements, but the processes that Iran has been developing to reprocess and enrich uranium are also critical components for the development of a nuclear weapon.
Since there exists some circumstantial evidence that Iran, classified by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism, may have intentions of pursuing a weapons program, the Iranian nuclear program became a major foreign policy of the United States.
Bush has maintained a desire to resume the peace process in Israel, and had openly proclaimed his desire for a Palestinian state to be created before 2005. He outlined a road map for peace in cooperation with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, which featured compromises that had to be made by both sides before Palestinian statehood could become a reality.
One particular proposal was his insistence on new Palestinian leadership; a stance that saw the appointment of the first ever Palestinian Prime Minister on April 29, 2003. Bush had denounced Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat for continued support of violence and militant groups. The road map for peace stalled within months after more violence and the resignation of the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas.
By the end of 2003, neither side had done what was outlined in the plan. In April 2004 Bush announced that he endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip but retain Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He also announced agreement with Sharon's policy of denying the right of return. This led to condemnation from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Arab and European governments and was a major departure from previous U.S. foreign policy in the region. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak commented Bush's policies had led to an 'unprecedented hatred' of Arabs for the U.S.
President Bush has done work to reduce the HIV/AIDS epidemics in Africa, stop the spread of Malaria, and rebuild broken nations from their genocidal pasts. One of the most notable programs initiated by Bush is the PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) Program, which was a commitment of $15 billion over five years (2003–2008) from the United States to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. As of September 2007, the program estimates that it has supported the provision of antiretroviral treatment to approximately 1,445,500 people, mostly in Africa. Bush has also initiated programs that have put more than 29 million of Africa's poorest children into schools. Bush has provided "huge overt support" in Liberia to stabilize the country, and increasingly effective aid and trade backing good governance have helped improve health and provide education, skills, and jobs on the continent. He has also supported agricultural independence in Africa, reducing Chinese mercantilism on the continent that had been overwhelming the farmers. "Beninese" cotton farmers urged him to "stand fast on his opposition to the pork-belly politics of the farm bill that is winding its disgraceful way through Congress" on his last visit to Africa. Finally, he has been steadfast in changing the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks so it will favor the poor in Africa. It has been said, from Time Magazine, that Africa is the "triumph of American foreign policy" and is the "Bush Administration's greatest achievement".
On October 14, 2006 Bush signed a law imposing sanctions against people responsible for genocide and war crimes in Sudan. It enables the Bush administration to deny Sudan's government access to oil revenues. Furthermore, to the signing of the law, he signed another executive order that confirms the existing sanctions but eases some on parts of southern Sudan. It also includes exceptions to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid to Darfur. On the other side the order toughens some sanctions, including a provision that bars any American from engaging in oil-related transactions in Sudan. The order comes as the Bush administration's new special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, began a trip to Sudan, where he plans to meet with government officials and visit war-torn Darfur.
In response to the Government of Sudan's continued complicity in unabated violence occurring in Darfur, Bush imposed new economic sanctions on Sudan in May 2007.
Post September 11, President Bush worked closely with his NATO allies in Europe, to fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan. However, after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, relations were strained with France and Germany, who strongly opposed the invasion. But President Bush had an excellent relationship with Tony Blair, of Britain, and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, which took part in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush began his second term with an emphasis on improving strained relations with European nations. Bush lauded the pro-democracy struggles in Georgia and Ukraine. However, Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, both undemocratically elected and fiercely autocratic, received official state visits to the White House, along with increased economic and military assistance. The President had encouraged both leaders to hold free and fair elections early on in his second term, but in fact neither leader carried out significant reforms.
A planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe poses no threat to Russia, President George Bush, told April 1, 2008, responding to concerns that the U.S. might use interceptor missiles for offensive purposes. His comments came before he left Kiev for a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, that is expected to highlight divisions over the plan. Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush failed to resolve their differences over U.S. plans for the planned missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic, on their meeting in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on April 6, 2008, but said they had agreed a "strategic framework" to guide future U.S.-Russian relations, in which Russia and the U.S. said they recognized that the era in which each had considered the other to be a "strategic threat or enemy" was over. Before leaving April 1, 2008 for Bucharest, Bush told that Russia will not be able to veto Georgia's or Ukraine's inclusion into NATO. Bush said that both countries should be able to take part in NATO's Membership Action Plan, which is designed to help aspiring countries meet the requirements of joining the alliance. Bush added that Ukraine already contributes to NATO missions, specifically in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Ukraine also has demonstrated a commitment to democracy. Bush denied that the United States might ease off on membership plans for Ukraine and Georgia if Russia acquiesces on the missile shield.
President Bush simultaneously improved relations with India, Japan, South Korea, China and ASEAN. Bush confirmed that he would be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference for the first time during his presidency in 2007. However, he did not attend the conference due to American opposition to the government of Myanmar at the time.
Relations with India improved significantly during George W. Bush's tenure. In September 2001, President Bush removed sanctions which had been imposed in May 1998, after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests. Both his Indian contemporaries, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Manmohan Singh visited the United States at various times.
President Bush called Chinese President Hu Jintao March 26, 2008 to express his concern about China's crackdown on protesters in Tibet since March 10, 2008. Bush and Hu also discussed issues including Taiwan, North Korea's denuclearization and Myanmar.
Relations with New Zealand under the Bush administration improved and became increasingly closer especially after the Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark visited the White House on 22 March 2007. The United States and New Zealand had been allies during World War II and both countries were members of the ANZUS security alliance during the Cold War, which also included Australia. However, bilateral relations were strained under the Ronald Reagan Administration due to New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy which banned visits by nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered warships. This led the United States to suspend defense and intelligence cooperation with New Zealand in 1986.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Clark expressed condolences with the victims of 9/11 and contributed New Zealand military forces to the US-led War in Afghanistan in October 2001. While New Zealand did not participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it still contributed a small engineering and support force to assist coalition forces in post-war reconstruction and the provision of humanitarian work. Cables leaked by Wikileaks in 2010 suggested New Zealand had only done so in order to keep valuable Oil for Food contracts.
New Zealand was also involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which was launched by President Bush on 31 May 2003 as part of a US-led global effort which aimed to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. New Zealand's participation in the PSI led to the improvement of defense ties with the United States, including increased participation in joint military exercies. In 2008, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Prime Minister Helen Clark, and described New Zealand as a "friend and an ally." She also signalled that the US-NZ relationship had moved beyond the ANZUS dispute. The strengthening of US-NZ bilateral relations would be continued by the Barack Obama administration, and Clark's successor: the John Key National Government.