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Will Brown's Dinner With Merkel Leave Bush Hungry?

UK US FlagTraditionally, the British prime minister's first foreign visit is to Washington, but Gordon Brown chose dinner with Angela Merkel instead. Is this the beginning of the end of the special relationship between the UK and the US?

Besides,
Gordon Brown's "Mini-Me", the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, gave a controversial speech in Washington DC on Thursday. He was talking about forming "new alliances." He expressed his preference of a "rules-based international system" and of multilateralism over unilateralism. For some reason, many observers got the impression that he was not just talking about the fight against global poverty. His speech was interpreted as "coded criticism" of the Bush administration... Really? Isn't that an over-interpretation of the tea leaves?

Meanwhile, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung predicts that French President Nicolas Sarkozy will fill the "vacuum" that Blair left in Washington. Yeah, right...

More about all this in my post in the Atlantic Community.

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Don S on :

I think this whole thing fits under the category of "Don't sweat the small stuff". If Gordon Brown wishes to send Bush a message he'll find a way to make it unambigous. Consider George Bush's reaction to the election of Zapatero in Spain - more precisely Bush's reaction to Zapatero shooting off his mouth and sprinting out of Iraq in less than 2 weeks. No reaction at all. Bush did not take private telephone calls from Zapatero and has not changed that policy since to my knowledge. Bush is polite at G8 meetings and the like and that is the limit of it. The message was and is unambigous. Up till now the only unambigous message from Brown and his Foreign Secretary have been "No Change, no Rift". If anything Brown is more of an Americanophile than Blair was, although Brown favors New England more than any other part of the US.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Bush did not take private telephone calls from Zapatero" So he just pretended to put US-Spanish relations on hold, while ignoring that he needs Spainish intel cooperaton in the war on terror. "If anything Brown is more of an Americanophile than Blair was," Yeah? Why? What are the indications? Besides, he might be americanophile in a cultural sense, but that does not mean he will cooperate with US. For instance, I doubt very much that Brown would support airstrikes against Iran.

Don S on :

No, he put Bush-Zapatero relations on hold - as he should have absent a backpedaling from Zapatero. US-Spanish relations continue at a lower level at least until one or the other leaves NATO. But you should know that as well as anyone, Joerg. Something similar although less pronounced happened after Schroeder told Bush to piss up a rope (metaphorically speaking. Meanwhile, David issues his customary cliche. Ever consider trying to be less predictable, Dave?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Putting personal relations between heads of state on hold does not serve the national interest, I believe. Only highschool prima donnas act that way. There are better ways to "send a message." Just be frank and criticize Zapatero. European politicians criticize Bush as well. The "silent treatment" is UnEuropean. President Bush should appreciate democracy (this wonderful form of government he wanted to bring to Iraq) and accept the will of the Spanish people. He should have realized that more than 90% of the Spanish people were against the Iraq war in 2003. Or was it 80%? Anyway, opposition to the Iraq war was even stronger in Spain than in Germany in 2003. Zapatero did what what the Spanish people had always wanted. Aznar was the exception to the rule. Not the other way round. The same in Italy and many other countries of the so-called "coalition of the willing."

Don S on :

Zapatero slapped Bush across the face during his campaign, then withdrew Spanish forces from Iraq with about a week's notice once he got into office. That done, he called up Bush for a nice cozy chat just to show that there were no hard feelings. Kind of him - after he has thoroughly vented his feelings in public of course. But what about the other side? Did Bush and/or the US hold hard feelings toward Zapatero and/or Spain for pulling out that quickly and not sparing the insults whilst doing so, Joerg? Could be, could be. Bush has not vented hsi feelings in public - and should not have, as Zapatero should not have but nevertheless has done more than once. Bush has responded by doing the minimum. If Zapatero wishes an appearance of chumminess the least he can do is show a bit of affability himself. Thus far Zapatero has done everything he can to show he detests the US - right down to averting his gaze when the US flag is displayed during formal parades and such. When a growup behaves childishly grownups avert their eyes and ignore the behavior - and the nominal adult still not out of his mental nappies. This Bush is doing.... Obviously routine matters continue between the two nations at a lower level - but what has Zapatero offered the US which warrants high-level chumminess?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Zapatero changed Spanish foreign policy. So what? US policy also changes sometimes... First the US supported Pakistan over India. Now it is the other way round... First the US supported Saddam, then the US fought against Saddam... The US first encouraged the Shiites in 1991 to rise against Saddam, then left them out to be killed by Saddam. Same in Vietnam. Or Somalia. Soon the US will leave Iraq and abandon all the Iraqis who worked for or with the US, who will face a lot of repercussions, i.e. be killed... How many refugees will you accept? So far not many. That's ruthless Realpolitik. Has been going on for ages. Why do you make a fuss about Zapatero's decision to follow the majority opinion of the Spanish people and pull out?

Don S on :

Joerg, Zapatero changed Spain's foreign policy in an extremely insulting manner - and all way out in public. Then he withdrew all Spanish forces less than 2 weeks after he was elected. Do you think that did not impose large burdens of cost, inconvenience, and quite possibly unnecessary danger upon Americans? I'm certain that it did all three. Unilaterally - without consultation with the US government. To suit Zapatero's political advantage and for no better purpose than that. You may have noticed that I don't think very highly of leaders who play politics with foreign affairs - and using their allies as political butts during political campaigns. I'm thinking of one GS as an example. But Herr GS was positively subtle compared with Zapatero - though not compared with Romano Prodi. Prodi did his withdrawal as planned but did not play politics at all. The US had at least 6 months notice - probably a year's notice beforehand - and it was not made into a political issue. Nor were American political leaders given two horns and a tail by any Italian leader. So - what does Bush owe Zapatero apart from polite but frigid behavior? Nothing that I can see. Nor does the US owe anything to Spain. Particular Spainiards, yes. Spain as a whole? Nope!

Don S on :

"Zapatero did what what the Spanish people had always wanted. Aznar was the exception to the rule. Not the other way round." For a case study in how to pull out without severely damaging relations look at how Sylvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi handled the Italian pullout last year. It does help if you do not imply that the US President is not a fascist dictator. Quite a lot as it turned out. Zapatero has a big, fat mouth - and it's cost him and his country.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"it's cost him and his country." How? What costs??? Zapatero was not invited for steak to Bush's range? Oh, he must be really sad about that. He probably cried for a whole week. [b] No, seriously, how has it cost him and his country????[/b]

Don S on :

Not much - in point of fact. Perhaps some cost to Zappy's ego and a distinct cooling of relations. The cost of such things show up in the long term, but usually are overestimated by foreign policy weenies. Like yourself? ;)

Don S on :

In the long term I think Spain may see some costs. Right now the Spanish are busily getting rich selling each other real-estate and building horrid timeshares on the Costa del Sol. But that kind of things always ends (perhaps after all the beaches are completely paved?) and one has to go back to the basics of earnign money. Manufacturing, services, and other such boring things. Want to bet that US investors are somewhat less trusting of Spain's stability as a result of the Zapatero nonsense? And other investors? How well do you think Zapatero's bullshit went over in Japan. Such effects are not measured in percentage points subtracted from growth of course. More like hundreths of a percentage point - at most a .1%. But real for all that. france as a whole may not have felt much of an impact from Chirac's dippiness in 2003 - but French wine producers surely did! And (I think) other parts of French agriculture. I noticed it in the UK - Mark's and Spencer used to stock a wide range of top quality French poultry 7 years ago - but does not now. Now it's British producers. The changeover occurred circa 2003-2004, and may have been driven be decreased demand.

bob on :

Putting personal relations between heads of state on hold does not serve the national interest, I believe. Only highschool prima donnas act that way. There are better ways to "send a message." Just be frank and criticize Zapatero. European politicians criticize Bush as well. The "silent treatment" is UnEuropean. Okay...for some reason Haider springs to mind and that puerile Euro Summit from 1999 or 2000, where no one would shake his hand or look him in the eye; how very sophisticated. Zap lost standing in American foreign policy b/c there wasnt much to begin with. Americans still remember the grandstanding of the Spanish government over the Libya raid in '86 and frankly Spain is culturally distant and economically insignificant. It is like Portugal; who cares? French cultural and geo-political importance has declined since 1815 and for the Spanish it has been a case of continual decline for since the independence of hte Netherlands. What did Huysmans say: Africa begins at the Pyrennes. In the last century, all they have proven is that they can build condos on the Costa del Sol, slaughter their fellow citizens and suffer a dictatorship for 30 some years. Outside of its importance as the cultural and linguistic font of South America, it is basically Baton Rouge--corrupt, quaint, unpredictable and easily ignored.

David on :

Angela Merkel has the wind behind her and is seen by most as an effective leader. Bush is a lame-duck president, despised by his own people. Brown is making shrewd use of his time and energy.

Don S on :

Much ado about nothing. the Secretary of State for International Development says somethign which sufficiently twisted might be made into a hint of something or other - but those making that argument disregard what the Foreign Secretary said soon after. Davis Milliband “We are not into the game of hints". Yes. People mistake Gordon Brown. He is a dour Scot, not a dancing master like Jacques Chirac. David Aaronovitch makes an excellent case for whay it's all nonsense: "My guess is that Mr Miliband knows that the request that “Yanks go home” is one of the few wishes which, if wished, may be easily and disastrously granted." This is why the Germans are playing with fire when they encourage the US to close nuclear bases in Germany. Merkel and company come perilously close to uttering the words "Yankee go home". What would happen if the magic words are uttered? Nothing too catastrophic - in the short term. The Yankees would likely pick up their balls - and go home. Getting them back when (and if) you need them? That's the rub. Another Aaronovitch quote: "Mr Miliband was working in No 10 at the time of the Kosovo war. He will have seen how the entire outcome of that battle for the future of the Balkans turned on Tony Blair persuading a reluctant Bill Clinton to threaten to use US ground forces. Not German ground forces, not UN blue helmets, not an elite company of Malloch Browns armed with resolutions. Mr Miliband may well have contrasted that successful outcome with the elongated agony of a Bosnia about which James Baker, then the (Republican) US Secretary of State, had said: “We have no dogs in that fight.” Germans have done an admirable job in persuading Americans that the US has 'no dogs in that fight', where the fight is anything to do with the security of continental Europe. The UK? Ireland? we have a dog in that 'fight'. Germany?..... Tis' in the balance, and the trend is against. Both in Germany (highly visible) and the US (mostly invisible at least in Europe).

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Tony Blair persuading a reluctant Bill Clinton to threaten to use US ground forces." [b]He did not succeed, did he? [/b] Wesley Clark wanted this threat as well, if I remember correctly. Ooh, it has been so long ago. It is good to refresh the memory. I am sure there will be situations again like on the Balkans in the 90s. The EU will think they can handle it, but they can't. This time, however, America will be much much more reluctant than in the 90s. America will only come to help, if the Russians are likely to benefit from a European failure. But that has been the reason for US involvement in the past as well. The US has never helped Europe just because of the goodness of the American people. The US is not in the charity business. Of course not, although many Americans like to think that. Every US intervention was perceived to be in the national interest. Yes, the US did not really have dogs in this fight on the Balkans, but then they worried about Russian influence and the spread of instability and refugees etc.

Don S on :

There si a phrase which covers this, Joerg. 'Quid pro quo'. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown understands that the Quid gooes with the quo. And US participation in NATO and fighting the Kisovo war is one helluva big Quid. Gerhard Schroeder (and the majority of the German public by all appearances) do not understand that quo needs to follow quid - which is a great way to lose a big quid. As is happening I believe....

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Don, Quid pro quo? what has Britain got from the US for supporting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars??? Okay, I admit, Blair was pushing for the Iraq war as well. He did not do it as a favor to the US. The US has not supported Britain's Falkland war. Where is the quid pro quo? [url]http://atlantic-community.org/index.php/articles/view/Will_Brown%27s_Dinner_With_Merkel_Leave_Bush_Hungry%3F#comment3918[/url]

Don S on :

Let's see, Joerg. Do you recall which country fought 80-90% of the Kosovo War? and which chief of state persuaded then then chief of state of the fighting country to intervene? Hint - the initials of the chief od states were BC and TB. I'm sure you can take it from there....

Greg on :

Is this the beginning of the end of the special relationship between the UK and the US? I seriously doubt it. The US is still a more reliable and useful ally than any one European country or even the EU (the saga of the kidnapped UK sailors is the most recent illustration). So Brown doesn't like Bush - like David said, he can get in line behind a few million Americans. It doesn't change the relationship b/w countries. If England really needed help tomorrow, who would they call?

Anonymous on :

"If England really needed help tomorrow, who would they call?" Bond, James Bond. As usual. Or they call the Australians, who handled the Iranian navy much more successfully than the British sailors.

Don S on :

Oops! I ommitted the link to the Aaronovitch column: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/david_aaronovitch/article2087401.ece

Don S on :

On the culinary front, if Bush eschews British food for French fare - surely that is a step up in quality? In fact I can assure you of it. Not that PM Brown will be doing all that well in Germany, at least judging from ny experience. Germans make excellent sausage (and I'm fond of kartofflesalat) but I found a lot of inedible food in Germany whe I lived there. How DO people choke down deep-fried schweinenschitzel, anyway?

Zyme on :

Mmmm a good Schnitzel is one of the reasons I could not survive for long abroad :)

Volker on :

Amen, Bruder!

Don S on :

A good Viener schnitzel is one thing. Or even a turkey schniztel. Pan fried, not deep-fried. But when I ordered a schweinenschnitzel and Swabia, visualizing the tender schnitzels I have eaten elsewhere... Well, what I got was a major unpleasant surprise! Like trying to eat a brick. Swabia: The unspeakable pursuing the inedible? ;)

Volker on :

Boy, you should trie the Currywurst at Mönckebergstr. in Hamburg, that one is made in haven. Do you tried to eat one a second time at an other place? Or maybe it's like salted popcorn, a cultural thing. Brr, salted! We eat our fries with mayo too, so who knows.

Don S on :

"Or maybe it's like salted popcorn, a cultural thing. Brr, salted! We eat our fries with mayo too, so who knows." I like salted popcorn. The fact is I'm completely confused culinarily speaking. I prefer mayo on my frites - actually I like dijon mustard and mayo on skinny frites. British chips are inedible - but then so many British standards are inedible! British sausages are - but let's keep the discussion polite! ;) I buy Saucisson Sec or a good salami. Swiss landyeagar or proper German sausage when I can get them. Hot dogs - no. Frankfurters mit proper casing - yum! Problem is it's hard to get the good stuff unless I visit Harrods or Selfridges. I've rather gone off catsup generally in fact, though I do like a good BBQ sauce on chargrilled burgers. I love salted liquorice. A very Deutsch-Dutch thing if I'm not mistaken? My big treate is French food, however. Particularly a glass of good wine and a nice cheese cart at meal's end. I don't know what I'm doing - so I put myself in the good hands of the sommelier and the cheese waiter. Mmmmmmmmm, heaven!

Don S on :

One more thing: what is this currywurst thingy? I can understand good sausage and I understand curry - but putting curry powder to mask the taste of bad sausage?!!!!

Zyme on :

I know it has a very strong taste - but which german food doesn´t have?

Don S on :

There is taste and then there is tast, Zyme? I enjoy a good German-made sausage - the variosu forms of bratwurst are a particular favorite. The one time I ate a currywurst I soon realized that the sausage under the ketchup & curry powder was crap compared to the good stuff I enjoy. German food often do strong flavors well - but currywurst is a masking thing.

Reid of America on :

JW says "The US has not supported Britain's Falkland war. Where is the quid pro quo?" The US provided the UK with decisive military logistical support leading up to and during the Falklands War. The US provided heavy sealift capability that the Brits did not possess. The US transported and staged large amounts of fuel, munitions and supplies in the South Atlantic on very short notice. Without US military support the UK would have taken months longer to prepare for war. The outcome may have been different.

scott ryan on :

even i didnt understnad this curry-worst thing. we can only pray to god that the best out of democrats and republicans emerges and we also get a good president in US

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