President Bush says he is "prepared to think anew" about reducing U.S. troop levels abroad because of changes in Eastern Europe but won't take action without the European allies.
"I'm not suggesting that forevermore we'll have the same levels of troops anywhere--standing army, Europe, Korea, anywhere else," Bush said in an interview with foreign journalists. "But we're certainly not going to take any unilateral action.
"We do what we do in conjunction with our allies," Bush said in the Tuesday interview, a transcript of which was released by the White House today. "We'll be perfectly prepared to think anew, always, because we're living in fascinating, changing times."
First, however, Bush said he wants to await the outcome of talks with the Soviets on conventional force levels in Europe, and also Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's review of Pentagon budget priorities.
Bush, who is to meet for two days next week with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, said he was "not a bit" worried that the United States would lose its leadership role in the Western alliance if the changes in Eastern Europe brought a significant drop in superpower tensions.
"If tensions got so reduced that you didn't always worry about U.S.-superpower confrontation or something, that would be a marvelous world," he said. "We ought to work toward that kind of world. But it's got to be on our values. It's got to be on what we in the United States think is best--know is best."
Bush repeatedly sought to dampen expectations for the meeting with Gorbachev, to be held aboard U.S. and Soviet naval vessels off the coast of Malta.
"If you just get together and discuss change, that is my definition of success," Bush said.
"We're not looking forward to crossing 't's' and dotting 'i's' at this meeting," Bush said.
He said he believed the future of Europe, and the question of possible German reunification, should be decided by the citizens of each nation facing change.
"The role of the United States is to say: Here's what we think is best--democracy. Freedom. Free elections. Freedom of the press. Freedom of worship. This is what we believe."
Some congressional Democrats have called Bush timid for not taking a more active approach to the changes in Eastern Europe, with some critics suggesting he visit the Berlin Wall, recently opened by East Germany.
"Some have wanted me to go jump on top of the Berlin Wall," he said. "Well, I never heard such a stupid idea. I mean, what good would it do for an American President to be posturing while Germans were flowing back and forth by the millions? It makes no sense at all."