On Saturday, as former and current leaders around the globe learned of Bush’s death at 94 on Friday night, their condolences were steeped in praise for the depth of his abilities as a statesman and his refusal to grandstand — which commentators noted was in sharp contrast to the tone of the current U.S. administration.
“Germany owes a lot to George H.W. Bush,” Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in a telegram to President Donald Trump. “It was a stroke of luck in German history that he was at the head of the United States of America when the Cold War came to an end and Germany’s reunification became possible.”
Bush, often criticized at home for his measured response to the fall of the Iron Curtain, was lauded for that very quality abroad. His calm, controlled response to the end of communism in Europe earned him respect on the Continent as a senior statesman, despite his decisions to send U.S. troops into Panama and to launch the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Historians have noted that while Ronald Reagan gets the credit for urging Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” it was Bush who later succeeded in persuading the Soviet leader, as well as President François Mitterrand of France and deeply skeptical Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain, to allow the two German nations to reunite.
In the Middle East, Bush’s legacy was more nuanced, given his decision to end the war after 100 hours that pushed the Iraqi army out of Kuwait but left Saddam Hussein in power.
Kuwait’s emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, praised the “historic stands and support” that Bush showed to his country and “his pivotal role in forming an international coalition, mandated by the U.N. to liberate the state of Kuwait” after the invasion by Iraq in 1990, the Kuna news agency said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
Melissa Eddy © 2018 The New York Times