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WSJ: "In Berlin, Obama's Becoming Just Another Bush"

Chancellor Merkel uses her opposition to Obama's financial policies to campaign for reelections, writes Malte Lehming from the German Tagesspiegel.

According to Lehming, Angela Merkel is following Gerhard Schroeder's anti-Iraq war strategy, but implements it in a more sophisticated way:

Is the financial crisis for Angela Merkel what the Iraq war was for Gerhard Schröder -- namely, a reason to seriously strain Germany's relationship with the U.S.? One need not answer with an unconditional "yes" to be very concerned. (...)

There's no question, Mrs. Merkel has good substantive arguments on her side. Mr. Schröder had some as well when he opposed George W. Bush before and during the Iraq war. Nevertheless, Americans and the German opposition -- namely, Mrs. Merkel's Christian Democratic Union -- accused Mr. Schröder of dishonesty. After all, his antiwar views were also motivated by electoral strategy and were not entirely free of general anti-Americanism.

Continue reading "WSJ: "In Berlin, Obama's Becoming Just Another Bush""

NYT on Europe's 'Tepid Troop Commitment'

Harmony isn't a very interesting reporting item, and so from the NATO summit in Strasbourg-Kehl, we mainly get to see video images of burning hotels, and reports exaggerating the scope of disagreements. The New York Times report by Steven Erlanger and Helene Cooper provides a quite clear example. They write:
For Mr. Obama, in many ways, the two months since he took office have been a reality check on the difference between Europe’s vocal support and action.
But was there loud vocal support in Europe for a surge in Afghanistan in the first place? I haven't heard it. In any case, the Obama administration has long been playing down expectations of additional troops from Europe. In public it moved to asking European countries for more aid instead. In that sense, the 5,000 added troops European countries have now (temporarily) committed are a decent result for Obama to take home.

The size of the added money for the Afghan National Army and civilian aid, at 100 million and a pledged 500 million for aid, on the other hand, are not very impressive, although Obama says that it is 'signficant'. Perhaps he expects that he will get more in the future?

The NYT report also plays up the tension with Turkey over the nomination of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO Secretary General. It seems that the negotiations took a long time, but at the end of the day, there was agreement. Turkey got a few concessions, and Rasmussen got the post.

The difference with the report in the French paper Le Monde is striking. Le Monde writes that this summit has managed to achieve consensus, and focuses on the agreement existing on Afghanistan, the new Secretary General, the reinitiated dialogue with Russia and the return of France to the military command.

Perhaps that is a bit too rosy, but consensus seems to dominate at the end of this conference. Whether the consensus is right and whether everything that has been promised will also be delivered are other questions.

Europe Surging in Afghanistan?

That's what Daniel Korski notes in his latest ECFR policy brief. Factually, a lot of European countries have already sent more troops in Afghanistan, and still more are on the way there. Between November 2006 and March 2009, European troop levels increased by nearly 9,000, and European troops now make up nearly half of the ISAF mission. This has been the result of a set of (mostly) quiet revolutions in national policies on Afghanistan. At the same time, Europe still has not delivered a clear common strategy on Afghanistan, which is lamentable.

Korski makes some considered recommendations for an EU policy, which is very welcome, considering the lack of consideration on the official levels. At the same time, his ideas call for a critical review. Korski offers a list of seven policy recommendations, which are:
  • A twin process of reconciliation with the Taliban and constitutional reform to be launched
  • EU to field a large election observer mission and NATO to deploy the NATO Response Force for an election-focused boost to ISAF
  • NATO allies to improve training of the Afghan army by setting up a Military Advisory Force, a Military Advisory Centre and launching a NATO training mission for non-basic army training
  • EU to grow its police mission by hiring 500 officers on the open market, including from third states, like Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco, Serbia and Turkey, while reconciling the roles of the US CSTC-A and EUPOL
  • EU states to support the establishment of a special UN-backed serious crimes tribunal, located in Kabul or elsewhere in the region, to take on drug kingpins
  • US and EU to call for a new UN “assistance envoy” for Pakistan and to organise a donors’ conference
  • EU to launch a “capital reconstruction team” for Kabul to guarantee a concerted focus on security and reconstruction
The notion of starting a tribunal for drug traffickers as a form of nation building is an innovative idea, and a temporary boost in troop numbers in the weeks leading up to the elections also sounds like a good plan that could bring real results as well as goodwill for an effort that is managable for Europe's militaries and can be sold to the domestic electorate. Continue reading "Europe Surging in Afghanistan?"

G-20 Summit: Merkel and Sarkozy Challenge Obama

Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama had more success with former Cold War combatants than with some European allies as the Group of 20 summit of world leaders began, starting new talks on arms and trade with Russia and China but facing a challenge from France and Germany over economic leadership. Mr. Obama began by conceding U.S. culpability in starting the global financial crisis, but also called on Europe and others to do more to end it, in an opening news conference with the summit host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel answered just hours later with a combative appearance of their own, demanding fast and strict international regulation of the world financial system; Mr. Sarkozy called it "nonnegotiable.