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World

In Berlin, Jeb Bush Calls On Russia To Respect Ukraine's Sovereignty

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Jeb Bush is expected to officially enter the 2016 presidential campaign next week. He's been acting a lot like a candidate for many months now, including a trip overseas. He's in Europe and delivered strong words against Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday with a speech in Berlin. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: A presidential hopeful abroad may be playing more to voters back home than to any foreign audience. The trip is meant to send a message that this presidential prospect is comfortable on the world stage, even with little or no foreign policy experience. So yesterday, at an economic summit in Berlin, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke of trade and of the deep economic ties between the U.S. and Europe and of Russia and its military incursion into Ukraine.

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JEB BUSH: Russia must respect the sovereignty of all of its neighbors. And who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if aggression goes unanswered?

GONYEA: He did not say much about what that answer should be. But asked about it later at the event, Bush said it's up to the NATO alliance. He continued with this on the Russian president.

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BUSH: We need to make it clear that while Mr. Putin is a ruthless pragmatist, he will push until someone pushes back.

GONYEA: That assessment of Putin is not a radical departure from President Obama's own. And Obama also sees NATO as the vehicle for resisting Putin in Ukraine. But yesterday in Berlin, Jeb Bush had this criticism of the current commander in chief.

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BUSH: But always reacting and giving the sense that we're reacting in a tepid fashion only enables the bad behavior of Putin.

GONYEA: And there was this, referring to Hillary Clinton's famous statement about starting over with Russia, made when she was secretary of state.

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BUSH: We're beginning to realize that the reset button didn't turn out so hot.

GONYEA: In his Berlin speech yesterday, Jeb Bush did praise one former president's approach to foreign policy, recalling his father George H. W. Bush's diplomatic efforts leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. He did not, however, mention the foreign policy of his brother, President George W. Bush. Elizabeth Saunders is a professor at George Washington University.

ELIZABETH SAUNDERS: I think Jeb Bush has a couple of difficult balancing acts that he's trying to pull off simultaneously.

GONYEA: Saunders studies foreign policy and American politics.

SAUNDERS: One is this issue of, you know, distancing himself from Obama but also from George W., and that's got its own issues. But the other balancing act is that he's speaking to multiple audiences in his own party.

GONYEA: That's a GOP with neoconservatives favoring aggressive foreign policy against ISIS and in Iran, some internationalists, more like the first President Bush, and a more libertarian group skeptical of overseas military forays. Today, Jeb Bush's European trip continues in Poland before heading to Estonia tomorrow. Both are NATO allies. He returns home this weekend to prepare for an event announcing his presidential intentions on Monday. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.