The ever informative WSJ has a piece outlining their view that while being a man of the left, Rudd is far from the sort of faux US ally that are found in Europe.
Kevin Rudd, Australia's new Prime Minister, is sometimes billed – not without a little glee – as the latest thorn in the Bush Administration's side: a pro-Kyoto Protocol, anti-Iraq War, left-of-center leader of a major U.S. ally. But the 50-year-old Queenslander seems determined not to play to media type.It's always wise to give a new government the chance to prove itself, which is why I make no comments about them at this stage. It will take a year before we start to see the real effects of the change of government. People who are making bold predictions one way or the other at this stage are simply promoting their political ideology.
We recently met with Mr. Rudd in New York, following his meetings in Washington with President Bush and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, among others. If Mr. Rudd intends to be an "ally" in the mold of Germany's Gerhard Schröder or France's Jacques Chirac, he wasn't letting on. "The ballast that America provides in terms of global security and global economic order is overwhelming," he said, adding that the U.S.'s reflexive critics should "take a step back."
Despite his early opposition to the war in Iraq and his decision to remove Australia's combat troops, Mr. Rudd will still deploy his forces to the country in noncombat roles. He also intends to maintain Australia's presence in Afghanistan "for the long haul" and, at this week's NATO summit in Bucharest, will urge European countries to bear their fair share of the Afghan burden. Australia is not a member of NATO, but its troops, unlike those of most NATO members, are deployed to Afghanistan's dangerous south.
Mr. Rudd is also a realist about the threat posed by Iran, in terms of its "active financing of terrorist operations," its "entrenchment in Syria" and, above all, the nuclear issue. "I wouldn't like us in the future to play footsie" with the Iranians, he says, which sounds to us like an implicit rebuke of the West for the game it has been playing with Tehran. "This is baseline stuff. The Iranians are a real problem."
As for China – where he spent years as a diplomat and learned fluent Mandarin – he will urge President Hu Jintao at their coming meeting to engage directly with representatives of the Dalai Lama. But he opposes a boycott of the Olympics. "Historically, boycotts of the Olympics don't work," he says, recalling Jimmy Carter's feckless pullout from Moscow in 1980. "This will always be a two-steps-forward, one-step-back relationship. Let's be realistic about it."
Mr. Rudd is equally clear-eyed on economic issues. He inherited from John Howard the best economy in memory and doesn't intend to squander it. Sounding very much like his predecessor, he promises to reform welfare and cut taxes. Remember: Mr. Rudd is a man of the political left.
Finally, Mr. Rudd understands, in a way that must come naturally to someone whose country relies heavily on commodity exports, the benefits of free trade. As he told a Manhattan audience after our interview, "The successful conclusion of the Doha Trade Round would give the global economy a much needed psychological boost at a time when there is a heightened risk of protectionism." He added that "I was pleased that President Bush and I saw eye-to-eye on this point."
We only wish Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would see eye-to-eye with Mr. Rudd on the subject, too. And while we'll cheerfully admit to our own disagreements with Mr. Rudd – especially on a cap-and-trade "solution" to global warming – it's good to be reminded that there is such a thing as a responsible left. America could use more of it.
The fact that Rudd is seen as a staunch ally by the US will only be to our continuing national benefit in spite of what the US bashing Australian leftists think.