Call it a crammer course. This weekend at his sumptuous ranch in Crawford, Texas, the leader of the world's only remaining superpower, George W. Bush, is sitting down with his National Security Adviser, the ferociously intelligent Condoleezza Rice, for a series of briefings on US foreign policy.
The aim of the personal tutorials is simple: to ensure that Bush avoids committing any gaffes on his first visit to Europe this week, where he must try to impress allies with his grasp of international affairs, while persuading them to sign up to his unpopular plan for a global missile defence screen.
The challenge facing Bush has not been lost on his senior officials.
It is not just that Bush must persuade Europe of the virtues of his foreign policy, they say. First, they acknowledge, he must persuade Europe's leaders that he is not a buffoon.
It may not be easy. Bush's grasp of geography is shaky. Quizzed on foreign affairs by journalists during the presidential race he notoriously fluffed it.
'The common European perception is of a shallow, arrogant, gun-loving, abortion-hating, Christian fundamentalist Texan buffoon,' a senior official told the New York Times yesterday. 'They read all the press about a hard-line unilateralist. They really believe this stuff about cowboys. We need to get it all on a higher plane.'
Although he will take few specific proposals with him, Bush has made clear that his visit to five countries, including a meeting with Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, in Slovenia - a country that Bush once famously confused with Slovakia - is about winning over the hearts and minds of Europe's sceptical leaders who regard him as a lightweight on the international stage.
It is a point he reiterated in an interview aboard the presidential jet Air Force One last week. Bush said he would seek to reassure the European allies that the US was not abandoning them by shrinking into an isolationist shell.
He also said he would try to allay their doubts about missile defence and impress upon them the correctness of his view.
'There are some in Europe who worry about America becoming isolationists,' Bush said. 'And I'll ease their concerns. We're an internationalist government.'
It is likely to be an uphill struggle. Bush comes to a Europe that is increasingly confident of its economic and political muscle. And some of its leaders are determined to redefine the relationship between Europe and America in Nato.
They are increasingly wary, too, of the way in which Bush's America appears out of step with international opinion over issues such as America's peacekeeping role in the Balkans and climate change.
But at the top of the agenda will be Bush's controversial plans for a National Missile Defence system. However, the President has made clear he intends to ease European and allied objections by emphasising an inclination to cut US nuclear weapons at the same time.
On Friday Bush rehearsed the pitch he plans to make in Europe during a visit to Iowa, saying US allies need to think differently about combating 'the true threats of the twenty-first century. The true threats are the fact that some rogue nations who can't stand America - or our allies, or our freedoms, or our successes - will try to point a missile at us, and we must have the capacity to shoot that missile down,' Bush said.
He has already sent out his warm-up man, the hawkish Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other top administration officials, to sound out Europeans on a possible framework for a missile shield agreement.
Already the Russians have replied to Rumsfeld's overtures by insisting that the missile threat from rogue nations such as North Korea is 'completely hypothetical'.
Few - even in the White House - expect any agreement to emerge this week, which is not entirely surprising, given that Bush has not even decided what kind of a missile defence he intends to build.
The Pentagon has, however, signalled its intention to press ahead with new tests of the so far unsuccessful technology designed to shoot down incoming missiles. It plans to hold new trials in July, despite last year's spectacularly unsuccessful tests.
On other issues Bush's visit to Europe may be ill timed, arriving in a continent with a deep revulsion for the death penalty on the day that the US carries out its first federal execution - that of the Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh - tomorrow.
All of which perhaps explains the low expectations surrounding Bush's visit, especially in his meeting with Putin.
'We're not expecting major agreements here,' Rice said last week. 'What we really are doing here is establishing a foundation with these two Presidents in their personal relationship that can help us to promote a constructive and realistic relationship with Russia.'
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001