What is being called his last extended foreign trip as U.S. secretary of state also is the first foray in a campaign by the U.S. administration to -- in Powell's words -- "reach out to Europe." Trans-Atlantic ties have been strained by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Powell has achieved mixed results. After meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday, he allowed his frustration to show over what Washington sees as a lack of commitment to Iraq by its NATO partners.
"The position of some of the [NATO] nations that are not willing to have their troops go to Iraq, even if they are on an international staff, is that -- at least as they see it -- they thought they had made this clear previously," Powell said. "But we think it is a problem, and we had a pretty good discussion of it at our lunch."
NATO members Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, and Spain remain unwilling to send troops to Iraq for any reason.
Powell told French television yesterday that he would like to see relations between Washington and Paris -- which have been particular strained over Iraq -- move forward. And he said that he hopes that in 2005 "any breaches that remain between Europe and the United States are closed."
On the positive side, NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer announced yesterday that NATO will increase its military training mission in Iraq from 60 to about 300 troops. He said several countries have offered to send more soldiers, including Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands.
De Hoop Scheffer also stressed cooperation, saying the fight against international terrorism demands international unity: "We look at the modern-day threats and challenges -- terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, failed states -- are the challenge of today. I mean, everybody realizes that the fight against international terrorism is something that we only can do together."
Earlier in the week, on a stop in Bulgaria, Powell had called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- to help supervise Iraq's upcoming general elections. It's an involvement that the OSCE has so far shown no inclination to undertake.
In his remarks yesterday, Powell reiterated Washington's determination that Iraq will be able to hold the polls as scheduled on 30 January.
"We are going to continue to move forward and bring this insurgency down to a point where the people of Iraq will feel secure in going to their polling places at the end of January," Powell said.
Powell confirmed that U.S. President George W. Bush will travel to Europe in late February for talks with NATO and EU officials.