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Germany Confronts the United States and Russia

The Moderate Voice quoted the New York Times earlier this week:
In unusually harsh language, Bush administration negotiators took issue with the German draft of the communiqué for the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, complaining that the proposal "crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to."
This "unusually harsh language" apparently does not stop Merkel: "Germans prepare to fight U.S. on climate change," writes the International Herald Tribune on May 27th:
Germany and some of its partners in the Group of 8 leading industrial economies are bracing for a major conflict with the United States at a summit meeting next week, with the Bush administration expected to block a declaration on global warming, European officials said over the weekend. (...) Merkel will hold talks with the U.S. House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday in Berlin in which climate change will be one of the main issues. Pelosi, who recently established a new House committee on energy, said she wanted to find "common ground" over energy with the Bush administration. Pelosi, making her first trip to Europe since her election, said she wanted "to keep the door completely open to working with the president on the issue of energy independence and global warming," according to The Associated Press. The Europeans have great hope that the Democrats in Congress will take a much more aggressive attitude toward climate warming.
Is the above mentioned hope in the Democrats justified or wishful thinking?

"Germans enter new phase in relations with Russia," headlines the International Herald Tribune:
But Merkel's tense exchanges with Putin over human rights and other contentious issues at a Europe-Russia summit meeting last week underscore how much has changed - at least in tone.
 "Our talks today showed that we are not cooperating very intensively," said Merkel, who was there as the current holder of the rotating presidency of the European Union. She also scolded Putin for barring anti-government demonstrators from the meeting, in the southeastern Russian city of Samara. Moscow, Putin replied frostily, planned to defend its interests "in the same professional way as our partners do."
What is less clear is how Germany and Russia will navigate this new phase in their relationship - one of the most sensitive, strategically important and historically fraught in the diplomatic world.
The hiccups between Berlin and Moscow are dominating political debate here, fueling almost as much anxiety as the impasse between Germany and the United States four years ago over the Iraq war.

"As much anxiety"? I doubt it.



• And who is the US confronting these days? US troops for instance fight against the Iraqi Army: "With allies in enemy ranks, GIs in Iraq are no longer true believers" headlines the International Herald Tribune.
Now on his third deployment in Iraq, he [Staff Sergeant David Safstrom] is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber's body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army. (...)
With few reliable surveys of soldiers' attitudes, it is impossible to simply extrapolate from the small number of soldiers in Delta Company. But in interviews with more than a dozen soldiers over a one-week period, most said they were disillusioned by repeated deployments, by what they saw as the abysmal performance of Iraqi security forces and by a conflict that they considered a civil war, one they had no ability to stop. They had seen shadowy militia commanders installed as Iraqi Army officers, they said, had come under increasing attack from roadside bombs - planted within sight of Iraqi Army checkpoints - and had fought against Iraqi soldiers whom they thought were their allies.
"In 2003, 2004, 100 percent of the soldiers wanted to be here, to fight this war," said Sergeant First Class David Moore, a self-described "conservative Texas Republican" and platoon sergeant who strongly advocates an American withdrawal. "Now, 95 percent of my platoon agrees with me."

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Zyme on :

Am I the only one wondering why the climate policy has suddenly become important enough to risk a major blow to foreign relations? Is anybody else thinking this is just used to 'carve out territories'? As regards Merkel´s performance in Russia: This was very unfortunate to put it mildly. Criticizing Russia for it´s restrictions of the right of assembly provided Putin with the ideal counterattack: The measurements currently taken due to the G8 Summit in Germany are highly questionable as well. A barbed wired fence of 13 km with concrete blocks, 2.5 meters high and surrunded by a precinct, the seizure of entire post delievery stations by police force to search the mail of potential critics, an organized police raid of leftist organizations throughout entire Germany with more than 900 policemen involved to intimidate their members. Combined with the so-called "online-searching" of unsuspecting citizens by the inner secret service according to a order of the inner ministry without any legal basis, this makes me get the idea that the german-russian cooperation has de facto extended - to the police level. So Merkel is well advised to be as quiet on this subject when talking to Putin next time, as her foreign minister usually is. Unless of course, she wants to use this subject to 'carve out territories' as well :D

Anonymous on :

Damn it. What is the foreign ministry thinking? After half a century of good bilateral relations, you think some bureaucrat would have a firm enough grasp of American government not to talk to an opposition House majority leader about foreign policy. Speaker Pelosi's 'shadow presidency' is blatantly unconstitutional and shameful. Even the WaPo acknowledges that. Now if Speaker Pelosi and Prime Minister Merkel are talking about specific regulatory positions and programmes, thats fine; however, the intimation is one of recalibrating American climate control efforts to engage an international regime. International decorum dictates that you go through the State Department and the executive. It is bad politics and poor stateswomanship. Schroeder's Sonderweg was explicable. He had a tight election to win, but Germany's economy is finally on a stable footing and things seem to be looking up; why rock the boat? Maybe, she recognizes that the G8 is going to be an unproductive disaster anyway and this will silence internal critics and pacify the Greens for a while.

Anonymous on :

80% of Germans don't care about Climate Change and Russia. 99% of Germans don't do anything about it. And yet the NYT uses as headlines: Germans prepare to fight U.S. on climate change Germans enter new phase in relations with Russia Why don't they differentiate between government and people? German newspapers don't write headlines like "Americans prepare to fight Iran."

mbast on :

Speaking of Russia: what's all that about a new russian ICBM that's supposed to be able to evade any kind of missile screen? I read about that in the [url=http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,485523,00.html]Spiegel[/url] . What's with Putin? Reviving the Soviet Union or something? As for global warming: I think we're all missing the point here. It is indisputable that something needs to be done about global warming. The scientific community is now pretty much united in saying that global warming is indeed a fact and that it's probably already to late to stop it, unless enormous efforts are made both in the US and the EU (who are the two major polluters). And yes, the Germans are a major contributor to greenhouse gases since they have dropped the nuclear energy option. Most of the pollution comes from electricity plants burning coal. Quite a few of the "dirty thirty" plants are in Germany. Doesn't mean that the US can sit on their hands either, though. Something has to be done, preferably before we can all emigrate to Antarctica because the rest of the planet's too hot ;-).

Axel on :

[url=http://www.russianforces.org/]russianforces.org[/url] has some pieces of information about the R-24. BTW, The failed US long range missile defense system test from last week with a misfired missile was, according to the Pentagon, no "real" test but it nevertheless "showed that any missiles launched by Iran could similarly go astray and land in Europe even if Europe was not Iran's target". I'm a bit perplexed by characterizations like "new phase" or "Germans prepare to fight" because I don't see great differences to earlier positions. Merkel knows the US position and its typical strategy of sabotageing every binding international agreement from first-hand experiences since she was Minister for the Environment and Reactor Safety in the 90's and she was acting according to these conditions always in the past. For instance, Tony Blair's effort to win Bush for an CO2 reduction agreement was coordinated with Merkel. And from the beginning of their chancelorship, she has openly critizised Putin. When she was in Moscow in January, she critisized Putin because of the stopped oil supply to Belarus - the Druschba pipeline - or the Russian boycott of Polish meat. Putin's psychological warfare for beginners in January was really pathetic. He brought [url=http://www.bild.t-online.de/BTO/news/2007/01/22/merkel-putin/kanzlerin-russland-praesident.html]his big black Labrador Koni[/url] along to the meeting with Merkel - Merkel is afraid of dogs because she was bitten by one in her youth. This time, he was wearing sunglases at the meeting and looked somehow like Matrix Agent Smith... I guess both politicians Putin and Bush and a lot of US journalists still underestimate Merkel. She is a really tough and committed politician who has neutralized political rivals and potential foes in her own party in a way even Helmut Kohl wasn't capable of (well, she has also politically switched off Kohl...). It's no coincidence that she has a picture of Catherine the Great on her desk in the Bundeskanzleramt in Berlin. So beware!

Sue on :

You asked, "Is the above mentioned hope in the Democrats justified?" I would say no. The Democrats want to stay in power and they won't do so if their constituents' jobs and mobility are jeopardized because of climate change agreements. Pelosi didn't manage to get a deadline for troop withdrawal in Iraq, and she won't get this either.

Anonymous on :

Axel As much as there is to compliment Chancellor Merkel for, her hand is not as strong as you seem to think. Germany is utterly dependent upon Russian gas and oil. Moreover, any attempt to force the Russians into bargaining substantively above energy policy will ultimately fail at this junction, given the market price. This failure would allow Balkan nations, France and Italy to cozy up to Russia and hope for preferential treatment as opposed to the horrible Hun's putative concern about human rights--splitting the professed solidarity of European Union foreign policy. Besides, the lengths that would be required for European Union solidarity in the event of a full-blown energy crisis Merkel is not able to pay. Come February if the pipes dry up, the business sector and the post-Soviet fellow travelers of the SED and now SPD will cry holy hell and disrupt the coalition. How is that going to work with the Visgard group? Czech, Polish, Slovak and Hungarian antipathy towards the Germans is real and Merkel leaving them in the lurch is not going to help things. The German army outside of the world class specialist units is pedestrian; the navy and air force non-existent. And German society presently, outside of an invasion, appears incapable of projecting force abroad or pyschologically able to receive military casualties. Merkel has taken a relatively strong stand against Putin. However, the situation presently is much more charged than was the case prior. Russia has demonstrated that it is willing to dispense with the sanctity of contract to achieve its goals, as well as engaging in cyber-warfare and the unsettling of resident Russian minorities. How is Merkel going to withstand Schroeder making the talk show circuit expressing his displeasure? Who in the coalition is going to see his Tauroggen moment?

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