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Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, not Substance

President Sarkozy gets a dozen standing ovations from Congress. And Chancellor Merkel gets to stay at Bush's ranch in Crawford, which is supposed to be some high honor bestowed upon only President Bush's very best allies.

Will this charm offensive result in better transatlantic relations?

I seriously doubt that Merkel feels all warm and fuzzy now, although that seems to have been the purpose of the invite to Crawford. Likewise, I doubt whether ex-Chancellor Schroeder was saddened when President Bush gave him the cold shoulder treatment. I think the White House exaggerates the power of such symbolism. European politicians are not going to be more supportive of the US because of a visit to Crawford or standing ovations. Has the charming worked in the US? Le Figaro (translation at TMV) opines that Sarkozy accomplished his goal of "conquering the hearts of Americans." Apparently, it is not so difficult to impress Americans these days:

In a country that finds it hard to believe how disliked around the world it has become, it was refreshing to hear a foreigner from the Old Continent express himself with such sincerity on the often-disparaged anthem of the American dream.

Le Figaro concludes: "The unanimous enthusiasm of Congress shows that the plan for seduction was a success. This also suggests that its effects will not be short-lived." Likewise, USA Today and the Associated Press celebrate the asssumed US and French agreements.

I disagree with Le Figaro and share The Economist's skepticism regarding transatlantic relations: "A renewed friendship between America and its once-tricky partners may prove to be longer on style than substance." Is Washington desperate for better relations with Old Europe?

Come back, old Europe, all is forgiven: that seemed to be the tune playing in Washington this week as the leaders of France and Germany-countries once despised by American hawks for their churlish refusal to back the invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq-were received with a mixture of fanfare and homespun warmth by George Bush.

The Economist also has a word of caution for the Democrats and the Europeans, who long for a Democratic president:

Philip Gordon, a veteran Europe-watcher and adviser to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, says that even under a Democratic president there would be a risk of disappointment. Europeans would expect a Democratic president to give ground to their concerns over say, climate change, and Americans would expect better co-operation over Iran and Afghanistan. But such hopes could all too easily be dashed.

Andrew Purvis writes about the Merkel visit to Crawford in Time Magazine:

The transatlantic love-fest will be put to the test in Crawford, where Merkel, known in Germany as the Queen of the Backroom for her softly-softly negotiating style, is expected to warn Bush about the "catastrophic" consequences of a military strike on Iran. Bush, for his part, will urge the European leader to pursue tougher economic sanctions against Tehran, regardless of whether the U.N. Security Council follows suit. Germany has significant trade ties with Iran and has until now resisted pressure to ratchet up sanctions outside of the U.N. framework.

And Nile Gardiner has recycled his usual Heritage advice: "The Bush-Merkel Summit: Washington Must Pressure Berlin Over Iran."

Have you seen any good analysis or commentary on the Sarkozy's and Merkel's visits to the US?


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David on :

So far, the press has reported on the joint news conference where Bush toned down the talk about "World War III" with Iran. I thought it was interesting that Bush used this forum for heaping praise on President Musharraf - a dictator the White House can really get behind. The best commentary so far has probably been that of Gregor Schmitz in Der Spiegel, who writes about how Merkel must try to keep some distance between herself and Bush (not come across as Bush's newest poodle Sarko) [url=,1518,516606,00.html] Partner: Ja. Kumpel:Nein[/url]

Fuchur on :

I would say it the other wy around: IMO, the transatlantic rift of the last years was more about style than substance.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Style made matters worse, but in the end the disagreements were over substance, I believe. The US expected support for Iraq (and thought it had a right to expect the support), but France and Germany did not give enough. Apparently many Americans even think that Old Europe obstructed the US. Besides, the style of Schroeder and Rumsfeld indicates IMHO something real and substantial that has changed in transatlantic relations. The new politicians cover-up the disagreements with better style. But that's all.

Don S on :

Excellent point, Joerg. I'm very surprised to read what Fuchur wrote - normally he/(she, it?) is much more perceptive.

Anonymous on :

French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner: “We are not aligned on U.S. policies, let me be strong on this

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