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German-American Relations on the Eve of President Bush's Visit

Ahead of President Bush's visit to Germany next week, The Economist is concerned that "America may expect too much help from Germany, whether on Iran, the Balkans or Russia." The respected British weekly acknowledges that Chancellor Merkel improved German-American relations, while "showing that she is no poodle, criticising Guantánamo and pushing the Americans to talk directly to Iran" and notices:
Most Germans are happy that the low point in German-American relations, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder noisily opposed the Iraq war in 2002-03, is behind them. But they remain unpersuaded by Mr Bush's charm offensive. Some fear that Germany may again come to seem too close to America. A few fret that the Americans could lure Germany into a "coalition of the willing" against Iran.
The Economist points out that bilateral relations were not as bad as the Bush-Schroeder relationship suggests, because the CIA was helped by two German spies in Baghdad during the early days of the Iraq war.  The weekly calls Tony Blair a "lame-duck" and opines that:
Germany could take on Britain's role as America's favourite partner in Europe. The rapprochement partly reflects Mr Bush's pressing need for allies in Europe. To get the Germans on board, Mr Bush has even showed some comprehension, albeit awkwardly expressed, for their opposition to the war. "I've come to realise that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent (sic)", he said in an interview with a German tabloid.
Concerning Iran:
Slowly but surely Germans are shifting from idealism to realism, particularly over Iran. They are convinced that something must be done about the country's nuclear programme. The recent Pew poll of global attitudes found no country with a higher share of the population opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons than Germany. "Germans know how dangerous a madman at the helm can be," comments Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign-policy guru for the Social Democrats. No party other than the Left Party would oppose "smart" sanctions if Iran rejected the western package of incentives for it to remain non-nuclear.
The German weekly Die Zeit looks at the state of U.S.-German relations as well.

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We live in a world that never sleeps. Most mornings, lawyers at my firm get e-mails from people in all manner of time zones: Hanjo in Bonn, Michael in London, Giulio in Rome, Paul in Cardiff, Angel in Madrid,...

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Zyme on :

"I've come to realise that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent" I always have a good laugh when I read this one. Especially in our army, war is considered totally abhorrent, just look at this: http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/56006 ;)

Anonymous on :

I find the Bush quote awkward as well. Is he indirectly saying that Americans don't consider war "abhorrent"? I think Bush wanted to be nice, but he simply as no chance in Europe due to the way he talks.

Anonymous on :

"the nature of the German people" Is anybody else talking like that these days?

werner on :

The Economist mistaking the German position for idealism - that sort of lazy writing is why I let my subscription lapse. It was convenience, of course. Idealism comes at a price. "America may expect too much help"? I don´t think so. When I see a quarter of a million protesting against Iran, I will believe in a change. The rest is hot air. The important question is not how Germans FEEL but what they can contribute - beyond symbolic gestures. What does German opposition to Iranian nukes mean, except that we may allow the US to pull that chestnut from the fire for us?

VinceTN on :

I'm curious about his visit. Germany will give the US whatever Germany feels is needed and no more. It won't have anything to do with the masses' opinions one way or the other. What did he think he would gain for all the effort?

joe on :

Vince, I would like to give you a different perspective. I have over the last 3 or 4 months been exchanging mails with someone in Germany. While we have never met in person we have developed a semi working relationship. We tend to disagree more often than not. I am sure I frustrate him just as he frustrates me at time. One of the things neither of us can determine looking at the sources in our respective nations, which were available to us was the purpose of this trip. We have concluded there is no real purpose other than to build personal rapport between our respective elected leaders. My position on this as the POTUS has already been to Germany 3 times there are other places he should go that would help and be more beneficial to the US. He has not been to Australia, a nation that is providing support not only in Afghanistan but Iraq and will do so with DPRK. He has not been to Japan, a nation who seems to be preparing to step up too greater burden sharing for security in Asia, as well as helping in Iraq. He has not been to Brazil a leading nation in South American, a nation which is a leader of the so called underdeveloped nation as it pertains to the on again off again free trade agreement the world is trying to move forward. I do not think the POTUS is under any illusions about what Germany will or will not do. Your foreign policy such as it is has not changed since Gerhard was your leader. Equally as much as you might think the position of the US and that of the POTUS have in some way changed, they have not. The US has very different national interests and very different strategic views than Germany. Where those interests and views overlap then one can expect both cooperation and burden sharing. The US is seeing that with Japan as Japan recognizes the near term threat DPRK represents to them. Just this evening I read a headline about a split between major allies over Israel. Reading the article it reference such nations as france, Spain and Italy. I for one do not consider these nations to be major allies of the US based on the actions of their respective governments. They may however consider themselves to be major allies of the US. Trust me there is a huge difference in those two respective perceptions. Interesting the criticism leveled at Israel by the french was more harsh than some of the Arabs governments in the ME. What was interesting was no mention of Australia or Canada whose positions closely reflect the position of the US. The article reported the UK position was much closer to the US than to these quote major allies unquote. I for one and I believe this is shared by most Americans, the UK is a major US ally. Germany BTW fell somewhere in between. The chasm of the Middle East still beckons. At some point Germany will have to decide where she stands be it on Israel and/or Iran. She will have to decide if she will sit idly by while another democratic nation is being destroyed or if she will join the fight. She will have to decide if the threat of Iranian missiles is more acceptable than it is to do something to eliminate that threat. The choices Germany makes and the actions taken will reflect German interests as well as the values of the German people. So your expression that Germany will give the US what is needed and no more is not true. Germany will do what Germany thinks is right for her.

VinceTN on :

Actually, that's what I meant by what is needed. I automatically assume the Germans are only thinking about Germany. No state in Europe has a history of actually sacrificing for others like America. Otherwise, they would be with us in Iraq today. I think Australia needs the attention but I wonder if Harper (Canada) would not be harmed by a visit. Canadians dance on the border of bigotry when it comes to America. Its time to lower Europe's overall exposure. Not to actively insult them but to put things in perspective. Actually contribute to something or get our of our way (a seat on the security council doesn't count). When I think of Germany I don't think of WWII, I think of science, education, and prominent theologians. I'd much rather have Germany as a close friend than a distant one but its a friendship I'll sacrifice for the far better course my country maps for the world. Thanks for the direct message. I would assume I agree with you on many things geo-political.

Christian on :

The Washington Times seems to have copied from the Economist a lot, except for that overblown charge of Anti-Semitism: "The Germans still won't support the president on Iraq, but Iran is another matter entirely. The Iranian threat has transformed Germany's naive idealism into something approaching reluctant realism. Germans, according to a Pew poll of global attitudes, express the highest level of alarm over the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. For the moment it's not even a partisan issue. "Germans know how dangerous a madman at the helm can be," Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign policy expert for the Social Democrats, tells der Spiegel magazine. The Germans, in fact, are likely to give strong support for sanctions if Iran rejects Western incentives to put aside nuclear ambitions. Germany, a staunch supporter of Israel in a continent awash in resurgent anti-Semitism, would likely be quick to defend the Jewish state if it were threatened by Iran. " http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20060712-083807-5716r.htm

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