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Obama and Merkel are "Trans-Atlantic Frenemies"

"The White House views the chancellor as difficult and Germany is increasingly being left out of the loop," is the conclusion of a good Spiegel International article by Gregor Peter Schmitz and Gabor Steingart. According to them, the "Washington of Barack Obama" considers Merkel's policies "as hesitant. And when it comes to economic matters -- particularly after the experience in battling the financial crisis -- they don't feel she has much expertise."

The label "difficult" is attributable to Merkel's refusal to allow then-presidential candidate Obama to hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate last summer. They also found it rude and impolitic when she didn't accept an invitation to meet with the newly elected president at the White House in April, despite that fact that both sides had been able to find time in their schedules for a meeting.

Reuters' chief correspondent Noah Barkin, however, puts the blame for the non-meeting on Obama.

The Spiegel article continues to quote two experts on Merkel: According to Dan Hamilton, director of the Trans-Atlantic Center at Johns Hopkins University, German "checkbook diplomacy" is currently experiencing a renaissance. And Stephen Szabo, head of the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, is cited: "France is in right now. The impression is that Germany isn't really of much use at the moment. (...) Paris is no replacement for Berlin in the long-term. (...) The Americans will need the Germans again in their dealings with Russia. After the German elections a new era will begin."

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Don S on :

"The White House views the chancellor as difficult and Germany is increasingly being left out of the loop," Well, is she 'being "difficult"'. Has she (and Germany) been difficult since time out of memory? I might argue yes. Merkel herself has been less difficult than her predecessor, but Peer Steinbruck has more than made up for the dearth. Seesm to me that the general principal is that when Germany has an interest it is considered vitally important that the US also must be interested - but the reverse is true only rarely. I think Obama looks at these Opel talks as potentially a bit of a tar baby, the Germans may well be trying to tie Obama into providing the main financing for rescuing Opel so they don't have to. Nice of the Germans to care so much, but as Germans so often have said to me; one has to consider the other's point of view. Which is sound advice; a shame that Germany seems to follow it so frequently in it's dealings with the US, isn't it?

Don S on :

Pardon, that didn't make sense. Bad proofreading I fear. I meant to finish: "Which is sound advice; a shame that Germany seems to follow it infrequently in it's dealings with the US, isn't it?"

Zyme on :

Yes the general elections are resonsible for the return of check book diplomacy for now. This way tough foreign policies can be avoided which would otherwise cost voter support. What makes me wonder though is Merkel's behavior when Obama wanted to speek near the Brandenburg gate or when he invited her. Not that I find either problematic, but it indicates that their relationship does not seem to be very heartful, doesn't it? Or does Merkel intend to distance herself? For what reasons? Foreign policy independence?

Don S on :

She wasn't exactly best buds with old GeeDub either, was she? She came to office promising better relations with the US than under Schroeder, and that is kind of true. But a lot of us thought we might actually see true cooperation come back - and that hasn't really happened. The 'improvement' has more been in things like no high cabinet minister implying the POTUS is a national socialist or a puppet of Wold Judaism. OK, Scharping was an ex-minister when he said that, but still!

Zyme on :

From what I have seen so far, I would guess that the personal relationship Bush-Merkel was better than Obama-Merkel. Do you disagree? Personally I think the chances of national ministers falling out of the diplomatic image like the ones you brought up is unlikely to happen again soon. Back then public outrage about the US was high, as the country was perceived to be part of the same Western World while violating its principles. Today the US have lost these expectations in Europe and would have to try hardly to earn a similar outrage.

Don S on :

Zyme, Bush may have had a better personal relationship with Merkel than Obama does, but it doesn't matter on the policy level, because nul=nul. You know? Germans seem to like the US coming to them hat in hand asking for whatever, but clearly enjoy the pleasures of saying 'nein' even more, because that invariably seems to be the answer to any request. No matter who mkes it. The end result is that a trip to Berlin is pretty much a waste of time for a US President. Same thing for visits to the White House. A whole lot of trouble to recieve a moral lecture and an often rude turn-down. Last time the G20 came with a stinger in the tail; a 'demand' followed by a damaging comment from a drunken Sarko; that Obama is 'weak' and can be rolled. No President should put up with that kind of discourtesy, particularly from a country which the US has defended for 60 years at huge expense. Obama is clearly smart enough to see that. Don't bet on it lasting another 60....

Zyme on :

I won't. personally I expect the EU to integrate its militaries and keep Russia and Turkey aligned in some way. These are alliances that have a future. The transatlantic one though I think has not. But this would not be the worst kind of development for the losers of ww2 and the cold war, don't you agree? Instead of endless struggle with our neighbours we might as well team up. Lesson learned, so to speak.

Don S on :

The @EU will integrate it's militaries'; what does that mean? There are two, maybe 3 militaries in the EU currently worth more than a giggle, and Germany doesn't have one of them. The UK, France, and maybe Poland have done more than the bare minimum & that's about it. So the EU is going to 'integrate' the French and British without so much as a bye your leave? I don't believe it.

Zyme on :

You are neglecting the changes going along with military integration: Today the military is in the hands of our states. Most are focused on defending in a land battle. Now since that has become obsolete, the armies have been lowered to a point which you describe worth a giggle. Of course, everything else would make little sense if you look at it from the perspective of effort and effect. Now when the EU creates its own army, that is going to be a different story. The EU stands for peace within its borders - and for the representation of european interests abroad. It will no longer be bound by the "never go to war again" principle, instead it is focused on protecting trade and raw materials world wide. Once it has the political competence, it is surely going to build up capacity to enforce its interests.

Marie Claude on :

followed by a damaging comment from a drunken Sarko; that Obama is 'weak' and can be rolled. No President should put up with that kind of discourtesy, particularly from a country which the US has defended for 60 years at huge expense. it looks likes so but he isn't BTW, you defend us ? I rather had the impression that you were messing us everywhere where we had to deal

Don S on :

I see the 'EU' army as a recipe for paralysis, Zyme. Why? Because it's going to work out the same as NATO has, with most of the participants striving to contribute as little as they can get away with, but insist on their full measure of influence on governance. Or perhaps a little more. Everyone insists on being the general, but nobody wishes to contribute the mud-eating infantrymen. Won't work.....

Zyme on :

A receipe for paralysis only as long as the national governments have a say in its deployment. Once control has shifted to Brussels, there is no more need for consent. Do you really think the commissoners could resist the temptation and not use the means at their disposal? The EU today spends roughly 40 % of the US defense budget for its militaries. We are not getting much out of this investment - but don't you think our governments would be inclined to spend more once they actually get something out of it?

Don S on :

"Under the control of Bruxelles". You write as though national politics stop at the hallowed borders of the EU Directorate. Not exactly congruent with the reality, or why else is the SAP so huge and destructive? And many other things one might think of also.

Don S on :

The CAP, I meant. Not the SAP.

Zyme on :

I will not neglect that we are far from a state of integration which allows Brussels to be in charge. Things are not going to improve over night. I am afraid that this process will take a long time. Unless unforseen events influence the process, it will at least take 20 years until the armies are merged, I would assume. Patience is needed here. And yes I know this isn't a typically American trait ;)

Don S on :

Zyme, haven't they already been working on European integration for at least 15 years now? And with what discernable result? What efective army in history has spoken many languages? A bigger problem is the successful efforts by many in europe to reduce their national army to nul. Nul + nul + nul = nul. Bruxelles may have to start virtually from scratch. They are going to need a seriosu tax base and quite possibly conscription power as well. 20 Years? You aren't joking. In fact I think you're a raving optomist. In the meantime you have to keep NATO together, and how are you gonna do that with Madame Naein and her nein successors telling the US to piss off at every opportunity?

Joe Noory on :

It's not a state, it's a cartel.

Pamela on :

An EU military? Yeah, right. They'll have uniforms designed by the French and weapons designed by the - um - French. Let me know when it's ok to laugh. Did anyone notice that yesterday's front page story in the Financial Times was about Merkel blaming the Fed for the economy? She drank the kool aid. It's always the fault of the U.S. Always. (Altho, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm almost on her side about this one.) I think the story is not about Obama dissing Germany. I think it's about Obama not giving a monkey's butt about anybody. Have you figured out yet that the guy actually does think he walks on water? I woke up this morning to hear that he said "Islam is a part of America". Who knew? Not me, for sure.

Zyme on :

"I woke up this morning to hear that he said "Islam is a part of America"." Well then you have enumerated at least one thing of his concern ;) Can you now understand why I was so pleased when he won the elections? :)

Joe Noory on :

As in love as many are with the notion of fixing a permanent state of American failure, it will come at a price to all of us. The problem with the clumsy "reconciliation campaign" nonsense is that it likely originated with people who are entirely unaware of serious international relations who surround Europe's favorite American: the tone and the message of the apologetics confirms to those who do and plan to do real harm to American and European citizens that their rhetoric of a war against their faith being truer to them more so after the campaign than before it.

Don S on :

"Did anyone notice that yesterday's front page story in the Financial Times was about Merkel blaming the Fed for the economy? She drank the kool aid. It's always the fault of the U.S. Always. (Altho, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm almost on her side about this one.)" I can see your POV, but I think the current crisis is the product of a lot of short-sighted decisions taken in many places, not merely the US. The US decided to run unsustainable debt, which was converted into substandard mortgages into 'AAA' bonds - which ultimately proved to be trash. That is part of the the demand side, only part. But bad enough. BTW, the larger part of the demand side are dodgy loans to Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Look at the supply side. Three major countries (Germany, Japan, and China) have elected policies designed to promote obscenely bloated export sectors. Germany does not lend money to Germans, but happily (till recently) will lend to far dicier customers in Eastern Europe while it's sumo-sized export sector puts much of the rest of Europe out of business (and work). Similar comments for Japan and China, though Germany and Japan are far more similar to each other in that respect than China is. China faces a different set of problems. If the gang of three decided to grow domestic markets instead of exporting half their production the problem wouldn't exist because the funds would not be available for the dodgy debt. So the US/Eastern Europe tried to borrow it's way to prosperity while the gang of three manipulated the environment to maximise exports on their way to prosperity. It's come apart in tears now, and everyone got their just deserts as far as I can see. When there is an imbalance of this magniture there has to be two culprits, a borrower AND a lender. Blaming the borower alone does not explain what went wrong - and does not lead to solving the problem.....

Marie Claude on :

"An EU military? Yeah, right. They'll have uniforms designed by the French and weapons designed by the - um - French. Let me know when it's ok to laugh." OK laugh, let's see who's gonna laugh the last ! tell where the french soldiers were laughing at ? I tell ya, on dumb neoconservatives blogs when they didn't follow dum Bush in his second expedition in Irak

Don S on :

Sarko takes one in the chops: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6434141.ece London Times: "Barack and Michelle Obama decline dinner with the Sarkozys" snip: "Mr Obama’s irritation with his French counterpart began when Mr Sarkozy tried to grab the limelight at the G20 summit in London in April and talked condescendingly of the US President in private. Mr Sarkozy told colleagues that he found Mr Obama to be inexperienced and unbriefed, especially on climate change. Mr Obama hit back last month, telling a visiting French minister: “Please tell Nicolas that I shall do my homework, and in two months I’ll know all about climate change" I'm not completely unimpressed with the way Obama has handled the crap being Shoveled out from Berlin and Paris.....

Marie Claude on :

you should cuz http://military.rightpundits.com/2009/06/05/obama-snubs-sarkozy-obama-refuses-dinner-with-french-president/ and not all the Brits press follows the herd : http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/why-truth-is-a-casualty-of-war-in-the-battle-of-obama-beach-1694529.html

John in Michigan, USA on :

Great links!

Don S on :

Obama is not taking the arrogant behavior of Merkel & Sarkozy lying down, which is good. I think he is playing this the right way. He might hurt the feelings of Merkel and Sarkozy, but let's not forget the response they made to Obama when he tried to work with them this spring; next to no cooperation, demands, and insults (in the case of Sarko). I also haven;t forgotten the way they and their predecessors Schroeder and Chirac treated the US during the Bush administration. Now Angela wants concessions so she can give Opel to friend Putin - and Obama has been cool to the idea. I think you folks have forgotten who your real friends are. It takes a while, but it's an excellent way of losing your old friends. Next time Obama tries a rapproachment you might try responding with something substantial - and leave the 'non-negociable demands' at home.....

Pat Patterson on :

I'm not to sure about the wisdom of snubbing France and Germany, wecoming Castro back into the OAS, speaking before the Eqyptian Parliament which included members of the still listed as terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood and leaning on our ally Israel. Maybe Obama's hasn't quite grasped the idea of allies yet.

Don S on :

"Maybe Obama's hasn't quite grasped the idea of allies yet." I think he is much smarter than you think, Pat. I look at his negociations with Europe to date, and see a style closer to FDR's during the 1930's than any president has pursued since then. This may be more appropriate to the current scene then you might believe. During the 30's FDR blew off a number of international conferences which had been called, sending relatively mnor figures to represent the US. I think he did this for two reasons: The first was that these conferences were called in part to 'bring the US to book'. That is, to present the US with diplomatic and financial fait(s) accompli: "We have decided that you should make the following concessions to us". The reasons behind those attitudes were complex, but possibly because Europeans of that era were incapable of negociating as equals with non-europeans because Europe had always held the upper hand and it was unthinkable that should change. The second reason he did it is that it was domestically popular in the US. The US was finally brought into the international system during the lae 40's - but as undoubted leader of the western alliance. The US agreed to lead NATO in the defense of Western Europe and provided other benefits, and in return was granted respect and certain other benefits. This necessitated a change in negociating style to one suitable to "the leader of the free world". Today we are in another period of flux in the international order. The fundamental causes differ, but some of the tactics have returned, including the "We have decided that you will do what we want" negociating tactic. It's been made extremely clear that the US is no longer "the leader of the free world", so the diplomacy suited to that period is largely out of date. Thus a mild return to Rooseveltian diplomacy in some situations, such as the Opel matter. Merkel wants to US to come to the negociating table to give concessions so that the deal with Russia may be struck with Russia, but again has failed to consider what she might offer the US. Obama has negociating cards which he declines to surrender by participating in a process designed by Germany to benefit Germany alone. I think it's obvious why the Obama's politely declined the Sarkozy's dinner invitation: Sarko had slapped Obama in the chops after the G20 by saying he was 'weak' and unprepared, and apparently regards international conferences as places to make demands and show willpower - Obama signaled that he is willing to play the same tactics if need be.....

Pat Patterson on :

I can only hope there is coherency were there appears to be confusion. FDR did indeed ignore many European feelers, witness that he barely remembered his first meeting with Churchill, but much time was spent on the creation of the OAS and trying to establish good relations with Japan. During the 30's the idea of Manifest Destiny, though looked down upon by our betters, still informed much of American policy regarding foreign affairs. And unfortunately FDR's machinations in regard to Europe were in the end a disaster. First in misjudging both Hitler and Stalin and the spillover in believing that he could finesse Imperial Japan.

Don S on :

"but much time was spent on the creation of the OAS and trying to establish good relations with Japan." Another historical parallel. Before WWII US foreign policy (such as it was) was far more global than it became afterward. Don't forget that he intervention into WWI was not part of the pattern of US foreign policy but a break with it. We pulled back after WWI when the Senate voted down entry into the League of Nations, and many have called that a fateful decision which led to WWII. After WWII we ended up staying, but only in a system which we led and which contained many advantages for the US. It cost a lot but there were some countervailing advantages. Today the advantages have been withdrawn. Europe is trying to make the US into just another player in the European system - not the foremost one at that. We are to be bound by the foreign policy of the EU, without having a voice. Under those conditions I would call US participation in NATO 'taxation without representation', wouldn't you? Diplomatic strategy appropriate to a superpower is much different than the strategy appropriate to a mere great power. Europe deliberately took down the US position as the 'leader' of the western alliance over the past 20 years. Obama honestly tried talking to Merkel and Sarkozy about fulfilling their partnership with the US; they responded by flinging it back into his face. Very well, he's reverting to a more machiavellian, Rooseveltian diplomatic strategy. We have seen this before, of course. It's the same thing that France and Germany have been doing for years; pursue the narrow national interest and hang the whole. After 20 years of 'low, dishonest' dealings, I find I'm all for it.

Don S on :

In favor of Rooseveltian diplomacy, let me point out that he was following the precedent set by George Washington 'no entangling alliances' (with Europe) and that policy had worked pretty well for 150 years. For the US - perhaps not for Europe. But its the duty of the US President to pursue the best outcome for the US. Cooperation with Europe is a tactic & perhaps a strategy, not a fixed principal under any and all circumstances. The US should reward it's friends and (at very mildest) not hand out free goodies to adversaries. But are Germany and France friends or adversaries. Perhaps 'friendly adversaries', in which case the policy should be no goodies, no punishment. Benign neglelct except in cases of common interest. To my mind that means no NATO as we know it.....

Joe Noory on :

Matbe this says something about present day Germany as much as anything else, but cruising for a bruising over something as meaningless as Opel and some pencilneck monetary policy stuff isn't exactly a great geopolitical drama worth expending ones Foreign Policy capital over as the White House is in the process of doing. there are no lives at risk. It's quintessencially lefty democrat in nature: a pointless sideshow. Which is to say little more than a reason to hound for some cheap publicity.

Don S on :

Joe, I think Obama is doing two things by avoiding engagement with Merkel over Opel. He is avoiding exposure to a proposed sale of Opel to Russia. Merkel needs concessions from the US to do the deal with Putin. To make those concessions Obama would neccesarily expend political capital within the US electorate, who would rightly ask what the hell a POTUS was doing giving GM patents to Putin and abetting the expansion of Russian influence in central europe? He could veto it but that would cost him political capital in Europe. So he sends a junior representative who needs sign-off from the administration to renew supplies of toilet paper - an official with no clout. That angers Merkel of course, but Merkel: a) has been pissing off the US for years and b) may be out of office in a couple months anyway. The second thing he's going is sending a message to Merkel and Sarkozy. They have been playing a similar game for years now, deeply and sincerely explaining that domestic opposition prevents them from doing anything substantial to uphold the NATO mission in Afghanistan - "so here are 30 troops from the flesh closest to the heart, you can't know how much it pains me, etc". Drivel of course. The US can play the 'sincerely friendly but disengaged' game as well as anyone should it choose; I think the time has come.

Pat Patterson on :

I suspect that this following statement might upset some but I am fast coming to the conclusion that the US needs to begin acting the hegemon that everyone keeps prattling about. Overwhelming power and authority keeps the peace while unicorns and sensitivity are simply excuses for the butchers among us to act with no restraint. If Pres Obama is truly acting as a Popillus Laenas then I will support him but I suspect that this treatment of our allies has more to do with inept staffing and the utterly shallow knowledge that Pres Obama has displayed regarding anything outside of Chicago.

Marie Claude on :

right, Obama has no consistance, he is a Chicago Brat and treat foreign leaders the way he was bred, he's going to fail, even the muslims don't respect him So I don't blame Sarko for what he said, I would have been more on the "beast", anyway, it's not the use in international relations see how Carla treated O, she's got some "chien" ! http://www.rtlinfo.be/rtl/news/article/247278/carla-sarkozy-zappe-barack-obama/ check the video LMAO

Pat Patterson on :

Marie Claude when did you start channeling the infamous Merkel/etc?

Marie Claude on :

Me, I love Angela ! she finally accorded us the restauration TVA at 5,5% :lol: No, I don't care, well She doesn't seem to have O in great estime, so am I, then she is my friend ! and if O believe that he will gain her favors, he puts his fingers in his eyes ! what he wants, is that she gives him a pass for Russia ! But Putin said that he is ruining America with his socialist program (BTW Europe is majoritarely right now), the he is messing aroung with his non-nucleat proliferation agendas... bref he is what Sarko aid LMAO

Detlef on :

Hmm, I seem to recall that Gabor Steingart last year during the US Presidential campaign did write some articles which seemed not quite up-to-date. :) So I´m a bit hesitant to simply accept the (anonymous) "Washington of Barack Obama" sources. But if this cite: [i]The label "difficult" is attributable to Merkel's refusal to allow then-presidential candidate Obama to hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate last summer.[/i] is true then she was right. Not to mention that the quote sounds pretty arrogant. The Brandenburg gate isn´t some nice background scenario that should be available to US Presidential candidates on demand. I wonder what the Obama crowd and that stupid Berlin mayor will say when the Republican US Presidential candidate in 3 years would like to do the same? Probably won´t happen but you get my point. Getting involved in the US Presidential elections - even indirectly - seems like a stupid idea. We will have to work with any US President regardless of his/her party affiliation. Preferential treatment for some candidates will backfire sooner or later.

Don S on :

Detlef, you are correct. I suspect Obama's actions have more to do with the fact that the US hasn't really been asked or listened to by the Merkel government for a long time, yet she seems to take his consent as a given. If the story I hear about a Russian (read Putin) takeover of Opel are true, the concessions that Merkel is sure to demand from Obama will bear a political price for him. I;m sure he wants something in exchange. Or more like, a different deal, either Opel goes to another player or without help from the US. Another factor is that Obama may have felt 'rolled' at the G20 by the 'demands' of Merkel and Sarkozy - and the effect was magnified a great deal by Sarkozy's stupid comments afterward. Merkel didn't comment, but she took part in it. That kind of thing won'tput anyone in a frame of mind to deal......

Marie Claude on :

Don, you have too much of O in your mouth, he ain't a normal US president, he is a Karnaval fake, and I fear that you'll have to pay harshly for dooming America what you express is frustration, not good for your clear vew ! Sarko is not perfect, but he isn't an idiot

Detlef detled1961@yahoo.de on :

Don, [i]Detlef, you are correct. I suspect Obama's actions have more to do with the fact that the US hasn't really been asked or listened to by the Merkel government for a long time, yet she seems to take his consent as a given.[/i]

Detlef on :

Sorry about that! That comment was posted without my comments. [i]Detlef, you are correct. I suspect Obama's actions have more to do with the fact that the US hasn't really been asked or listened to by the Merkel government for a long time, yet she seems to take his consent as a given.[/i] That seems pretty unlikely since all German governments after WW2 kept at least one eye on the US government. And I notice that you don´t even try to defend the alleged accusation. Of Angela Merkel denying Obama his Brandenburg Gate speech. [i]If the story I hear about a Russian (read Putin) takeover of Opel are true, the concessions that Merkel is sure to demand from Obama will bear a political price for him. I;m sure he wants something in exchange. Or more like, a different deal, either Opel goes to another player or without help from the US.[/i] If the stories I hear about a Russian takeover of Opel are true, lots of Germans will question that takeover. Especially since the German tax payer seems to assume all of the risks. And some Canadian-Russian consortium seems to get all the (possible) profits. [i]Another factor is that Obama may have felt 'rolled' at the G20 by the 'demands' of Merkel and Sarkozy - and the effect was magnified a great deal by Sarkozy's stupid comments afterward. Merkel didn't comment, but she took part in it. That kind of thing won'tput anyone in a frame of mind to deal......[/i] Ohh, in that case Obama probably shouldn´t meet Wall Street Bankers. Although maybe he has already capitulated to them. :) I´ll let you in on a secret. According to most European media, Sarkozy and Merkel can´t stand each other. Now, that doesn´t mean that they won´t assist each other. It simply means that - given astute diplomats - the US could have explored the differences between them.

Zyme on :

"Until British politicians can explain us why they think a British familily can lawfully consume more energy than a India or a Chinese family" My goodness, that is easy: Our British fellows are somewhat fewer citizens than China or India. Also you can be assured that those emissions are put to more efficient use here. Relax, the demand of curbing emissions in Asia is also a means of reducing competition. If you fall for it, you deserve no better.

Pat Patterson on :

A word of warning, please do not feed the trolls!

Marie Claude on :

See ya, China let her monkeys out to have a break on the net atmosphere after having forced them into custody for a great anniversary

Marie Claude on :

hey L'ami Chinetoqué, what do you smoke ? are you still on opium ?

Pat Patterson on :

Now be nice! Only the Taipans hiding in Hong Kong are smuggling such nasty bits of fun into China now.

Pat Patterson on :

"Roll another one, Just like the other one..."

Pat Patterson on :

Gehrin tot!

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