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Missile Defense: Some German Social Democrats Act Like It's 2002

Judy Dempsey writes in the International Herald Tribune about the German positions on the US missile defense project in Central Europe:
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, trying to counter the increasingly anti-American attitude of her coalition partners, the Social Democrats, has called on the European Union to find a common position over American plans to deploy part of an anti-missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. (...) In fact, the two parties in Merkel's coalition appear more divided over the missile shield than other EU member states, which have been far less vocal or critical of the U.S. missile shield.  Kurt Beck, leader of the Social Democrats, said this week that the missile defense shield would lead to a new arms race and that it should be discussed within NATO, or even abandoned. (...)
So far, in public at least, U.S. officials have not questioned the tone of any of the criticism from the German left, as was the case after Gerhard Schröder, the former Social Democratic chancellor, narrowly won re-election in 2002 after criticizing the Bush administration's actions toward Iraq.
Prof. Drezner recommends Dempsey's article and draws a sharper conclusion: "The German Social Democrats party like it's 2002"
One of the key points I was trying to make in my Foreign Affairs article was that the Bush foreign policy of 2007 looks somewhat different from the Bush foreign policy of 2002 -- it's more multilateral in both form and substance. This has been a common theme among foreign policy wonks across the ideological divide. However, the word has yet to reach the German Social Democrats. (...) One gets the sense that domestic political calculations are behind the SPD's thinking... much as it was back in 2002.
Personal comments: Not every Social Democrat is against the Missile Defense project. Ulrich Klose, deputy chairman of the Bundestag's committee on foreign relations, told Die Welt (in German, via Kosmoblog) that Europe would be without protection, if Iran develops nukes and there are not any missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Germany and the United States Failed to Train Afghanistan's Police

The creation of a stable and well-functioning state requires a well-trained police force that is not corrupt, but abides by the law and enforces the law without bias. Afghanistan is not anywhere close to such a police force. According to a Congressional Research Service report (see Atlantic Review post) "the United States has become more active in training the Afghan police, possibly as a result of the reported deficiencies in German training." Now it seems that the US training has failed as well: "Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone." writes the New York Times:
The training experts say the United States made some of the same mistakes in training police forces in Afghanistan that it made in Iraq, including offering far too little field training, tracking equipment poorly and relying on private contractors for the actual training. At the same time, those experts say, the failure to create viable police forces to keep order and enforce the law on a local level has played a pivotal role in undermining the American efforts to stabilize both countries. In Afghanistan, the failure has contributed to the explosion in opium production, government corruption and the resurgence of the Taliban. In Iraq, the challenge is even larger: Sectarian death squads have infiltrated the police force and helped push the country to what many are now calling a civil war.
Ulrich Speck writes in his Kosmoblog (in German) that Germany should conduct such evaluations as well. Indeed, the German police training and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere should be evaluated with scrutiny. In the long run, Germany can only justify its refusal to send troops to South Afghanistan, if the German policies prove successful, argues Ulrich Speck. Thus, a lot has to be done regarding reconstruction in the North and the police training in the entire country. Continue reading "Germany and the United States Failed to Train Afghanistan's Police"

Still Deadly: World War II Bombs, Modern Cluster Bombs, Landmines and Small Arms

When a war ends, the killing continues. "More than six decades after the end of World War II, Germans still routinely come across unexploded bombs lurking beneath farmer's fields or city streets." writes Mark Landler in the International Herald Tribune (Hat Tip: Clarence):
Lately, there has been a skein of such dangerous discoveries here, one with deadly consequences.  On Monday [October 24, 2006], a highway worker was killed when his cutting machine struck a World War II bomb beneath a main autobahn southeast of Frankfurt, setting off an explosion that ripped apart the vehicle and wrecked several passing cars, injuring their occupants. Hours later, a weapons-removal squad defused a 225-kilogram, or 500- pound, bomb found next to a highway near Hannover. The police said the device was a British aerial bomb - one of tens of thousands dropped on German roads, factories, and cities during Allied bombing raids. 
Last week, 22,000 people were evacuated from a district of Hannover after three bombs were discovered near a house. It was the second-largest evacuation for a disposal operation since the end of the war.
Construction workers in Berlin come across such bombs very often as well: Surrounding areas get evacuated and the bomb squads diffuse the bombs. There are hardly ever any casualties. People in other former war zones around the world are not as lucky, but get killed, lose arms or legs or suffer from other serious injuries due to unexploded cluster bombs or landmines. The Scotsman trusts a Reuters report that claims:
Between August 14 and October 8, around 20 people were killed in southern Lebanon by cluster munitions. Land mine activists said last month that cluster bombs are still killing or injuring three to four civilians a day, a third of them children. (...) Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground. While some aim to destroy tanks, others are designed to kill or maim humans over a wide area. Experts have estimated an unusually high 40 percent of the bomblets dropped on Lebanon failed to explode on impact. Around 115 people have been injured by bomblets since the war's end.
Rob Eshman, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles' Jewish Journal criticizes the "Cluster Silence." The Christian Science Monitor published a call to abolish cluster bombs by Amnesty International USA.
Continue reading "Still Deadly: World War II Bombs, Modern Cluster Bombs, Landmines and Small Arms"

Quick Links: Germany, Iran, American TV, Jacksonian etc

•  "Keen to clear up the accusations raised by former Guantanamo inmate Murat Kurnaz that he was physically abused by elite German soldiers, the German parliament will set up an investigative committee to look at the case."

•  "Germany, France and Britain have put finishing touches on a draft resolution on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment."

•  German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggests the establishment of an independent, shared enrichment plant under IAEA control on an "extraterritorial" plot with a status similar to U.N.'s in New York.

Via: Kosmoblog: Joschka Fischer, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke at the Foreign Policy Association (FPA) in NYC about the state and challenges for the transatlantic relationship, Iran, terrorism etc. Transcript and video availabel at FPA.

•  "New studies in Germany shed light on the twin problems of growing poverty and a deficit in the child-welfare system."

•  The Karnick blog thinks that "the reports of an increasingly tense relationship between the United States and Europe may be a bit exaggerated", because American TV series are very popular in Europe.

•  Bruce Miller has added "a 20th century Jacksonian to the blog title:  Kurt Schumacher, leader of the German Social Democratic Party from 1946 until his death in 1952."

Europe Loses Afghanistan and America Looks at Nice Pictures

"The American ambassador to Kabul has accused European members of Nato of jeopardising the future of the alliance by refusing to send troops to Afghanistan, or banning their forces from entering areas with heavy fighting." writes the British Telegraph:
Ronald Neumann, who has survived two attempts on his life this year, said European nations must not turn "coward" and "run away" from fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Mr Neumann said some Europeans "obviously resist the idea that you have an army in order to fight. And I have very little patience for that". (...)
In Germany the lower house of parliament voted by a large margin to extend the peacekeeping mandate of the 2,750 German troops serving with Nato for a further year. The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told the Bundestag that Nato had no choice but to stay. "Afghanistan is only lost if we give it up," he said. (...)
Spanish officials briefed the Madrid press that their government -- in conjunction with France, Germany and Belgium -- had seen off a request from the military commander of Nato, Gen James Jones, to mobilise ground forces from the "Eurocorps" -- a rapid reaction force made up of troops from several European nations. Spanish sources told El Pais newspaper that the four European nations had told Gen Jones the rapid reaction force was for unforeseen emergencies, and not for propping up an existing mission.
Clearly, more troops are urgently needed. Even compared to Iraq, there are too few troops in Afghanistan. The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and all three international editions of Newsweek's latest issue have "Losing Afghanistan" on the cover. "The Rise of Jihadistan" is the cover story: "Five years after the Afghan invasion, the Taliban are fighting back hard, carving out a sanctuary where they -- and Al Qaeda's leaders -- can operate freely." The U.S. edition, however, has a cover story about Annie Leibovitz's Amazing 'Life in Pictures'. This is not the first time for Newsweek: See the Atlantic Review post: "Dream on America".

President Bush is often asked why he does not send more troops to Iraq (Afghanistan does not seem to be that much of an issue compared to Iraq). He often replies that he would send more troops, if the military commanders would request them. Well, U.S. generals request more troops for Afghanistan, but it seems primarily the Europeans get blamed for not sending additional troops. More about NATO's Increasing Involvement in Afghanistan, NATO's Difficulties to Get More Troops for Afghanistan, and A Global NATO for more Burden Sharing?

Germany wants to woo Syria away from Iran and Hezbollah

Yesterday Israeli Prime Minister Olmert told the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung that he would like to see German troops in South Lebanon, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in an interview last week that at the present time she does not support the idea of German troops being part of a peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon. In addition to the obvious historical reasons, the Bundeswehr's capacity is largely exhausted: "We are in Congo, we provide the most troops in the Balkans, and we have our largest contingent in Afghanistan."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier considers it crucial to involve Syria in any negotiations, while Washington so far refuses to talk to Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. (Shortly after the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers, Olmert asked Germany to negotiate with Hezbollah, since the German Intelligence Service suceeded in negotiating prisoner exchanges in the past.)
Germany is prepared to offer Syria economic incentives to woo the country away from Iran and seek a broader diplomatic solution to the Middle East crisis. Steinmeier said: "Syria must decide for itself if the country wants to follow Iran down its path to self-destruction."
U.S. Fulbright Scholar Joshua Landis argues in his SyriaComment blog: "Syria has a big role to play. Trying to shut it out of any agreement will only guarantee that future cease-fires are temporary and fragile."
Fulbright Scholar Raphael Cohen-Almagor is the Director of the Center for Democratic Studies in Haifa (North Israel) and provides background on the Hezbollah War and the Israeli government in his blog Israeli Politics.

Ralf Fücks, member of the executive board of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party, wants to see Israel in NATO, because he believes "Membership in the transatlantic defensive alliance would give Israel the political and psychological assurance to agree to an historic compromise with the Palestinians by which both sides reciprocally recognize each other as sovereign states." He also hopes that this leads to a nuclear-free zone in the Near- and Middle East. Sounds all more like whishful thinking. Iran vows to produce nuclear fuel despite the recent UN vote, while NATO got even more involved in Afghanistan by taking over command of the dangerous south from the United States. NATO will have some 8,000 troops on the ground in the south - almost double the American force, but less helicopters.

Merkel and Bush coordinate Iran policy

On her second trip to Washington within four months, Chancellor Merkel described a nuclear Iran as unacceptable according to the White House transcript of the press conference with President Bush:
We've addressed a number of issues here today of regional concern, chief among them is Iran, where we are in total agreement, saying that under no circumstances must Iran be allowed to come into possession of a nuclear weapon. We are in agreement, also, that a diplomatic solution needs to be found, and we do see good chances for bringing this about. But we also think that it is essential, in this context, that the clear resolve of the international community is shown by standing united, by showing cohesion on this matter.
While the U.S. wants to see economic sanctions as soon as possible, Merkel emphasizes a gradual process aimed at getting Russia's and China's support:
If one wants to see this conclude to a diplomatic success, to actually do this on a step-by-step basis. Quite often, attempts have been made to rush matters, and to actually pre-empt what should be at the end of the process and to take the next -- the other next step before the next one. And I really do think that on this one in order to pursue this diplomatic process successfully we need to pursue this on a step-by-step basis. It's happening now.
The last remark refers to the U.N. Security Council resolution introduced by Britain and France that "would be legally binding and set the stage for sanctions against Iran if the nation does not abandon uranium enrichment." President Bush refused to answers the press' questions on his plans for sanctions. Russia and China have so far opposed sanctions. Merkel, however, met with Russian President Putin last week and will travel to China on May 21. Andrew Kamons, one of the editors of Foreign Policy, praises Germany's leadership and points out:
Germany has a lot of leverage in this process. Since Merkel took office, Germany has made strengthening ties with the U.S. a priority, and it has earned the trust of the current administration on the issue of Iran.  As a part of the EU-3 pressure against Iran nuclear proliferation and a strong opponent of the Iraq war, Germany has credibility as a firm negotiator on Iran without being tainted by too close an association with the United States. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it enjoys some of the closest economic ties with Iran, and support for punitive measures lets Iran know that economics won't trump security concerns.
Chancellor Merkel avoided to answer the question whether she wants the United States to talk directly with Iran on this issue. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and the chairman of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee called for direct U.S.-Iranian talks to overcome their bilateral problems.

President Bush mentioned the topics of his conversation with Chancellor Merkel:
Obviously, we spent a lot of time on Iran. After all, we're close allies in trying to make sure that the Iranians do not develop a nuclear weapon. We talked about the WTO round, the Doha round for the WTO, and I appreciated the Chancellor's willingness to work with not only the Europeans, but with a country like Brazil, and others, to see if we can't bring this round to a favorable conclusion. This evening I'm going to talk to the Chancellor about Sudan, and the progress that's being made in Iraq.
President Bush will attend the annual U.S.-EU Summit in Vienna, Austria, on June 21, 2006 and meet with Merkel in Germany as part of a trip to the G8 summit in Russia. Before returning to Germany, Chancellor Merkel will meet leaders of U.S. industry and finance in New York and speak at the 100th anniversary gala of the American Jewish Committee in Washington DC.

Germany's designated new Foreign Minister

United Press International quotes prominent German foreign policy specialist Karl Kaiser's characterization of Frank Walter Steinmeier as the "the grey eminence behind Schroeder":

Everybody who knows him, who has had dealings with him, considers him extremely able, competent, very pragmatic, and the Christian Democrats are pleased with the nomination.

UPI continues:

"The chancellor has a lot of foreign policy scope in summit meetings and so on, and we still have to see how much muscle the chancellery intends to use," points out Helmut Sonnenfeld, foreign policy specialist at Washington's Brookings Institution. But the feeling is that even when Steinmeier steps into the international limelight as minister of Europe's most powerful country, he will opt for a more measured, low-key approach that also seems to be Merkel's. Germany's first woman chancellor has declared a strong commitment to the transatlantic alliance, but the best that Washington can expect is a change of style, with not much shift in substance.

Dialog International recommends interesting articles about Steinmeier and one of his rare speeches.