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G-20 Summit: Merkel and Sarkozy Challenge Obama

Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama had more success with former Cold War combatants than with some European allies as the Group of 20 summit of world leaders began, starting new talks on arms and trade with Russia and China but facing a challenge from France and Germany over economic leadership. Mr. Obama began by conceding U.S. culpability in starting the global financial crisis, but also called on Europe and others to do more to end it, in an opening news conference with the summit host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel answered just hours later with a combative appearance of their own, demanding fast and strict international regulation of the world financial system; Mr. Sarkozy called it "nonnegotiable.

"Unilateral Germany Threatens to Weaken Europe"

Charles Grant, Director of Centre for European Reform, argues that Germany acts unilaterally in five key policy areas and "leaves the EU – and perhaps the Atlantic alliance – weaker."

His Financial Times op-ed is one of today's top press commentaries summarized by Atlantic-community.org:
Germany’s increasingly unilateral foreign policies are causing unrest within the EU and Atlantic alliance. ++ The US, UK and France are frustrated by Berlin’s reluctance to impose sanctions on Iran as well as its limited efforts in Afghanistan. ++ The impending election is a partial explanation for this refusal to engage in bold policies. ++ The generational shift means that today’s politicians see the EU as a tool rather than a principle. ++ This attitude is not threatening; it simply mirrors the French and British brands of nationalism.

Financial Turmoil: Merkel Blames the United States and Britain

DW World:

Chancellor Angela Merkel has revived Germany's campaign of a year ago for global regulation of financial markets to prevent another crash like the past week's. [She] criticized the US and British governments for obstructing Germany's efforts in the first half of 2007 to bring greater transparency to the markets.

Yep, it is "We told you so"-time again.

• Germany's state-owned KfW lender is called the 'dumbest' bank for transferring 300 million euro to Lehman Brothers on the same day it declared insolvency, reports the IHT.

• SuperFrenchie concludes from the US response to the market turmoil: The United Socialist States of America (USSA)

Germany's Christian Democrats are Pulled Left

David Vickrey, editor of Dialog International, wrote this guest blog post:

When Angela Merkel became Germany's chancellor in 2005 American conservatives were jubilant.  Here was a European leader who was not afraid to stand with George W. Bush and his Iraq War policy.  Conservatives were enthralled with Merkel's personal biography, her rejection of the perceived anti-Americanism her predecessor and her embrace of market solutions.  Surely her political victory would mark a new beginning for the frayed Atlantic alliance, a new strategic partnership based on conservative principles.

But 2005 now seems like long ago, and Angela Merkel has turned out to be something of a disappointment to American conservatives. 

Continue reading "Germany's Christian Democrats are Pulled Left"

Has Sarkozy Met US Expectations?

When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president one year ago today, the US media was full of praise for him and expected a big improvement in transatlantic relations.

Sarkozy's pro-American rhetoric was very much appreciated, because it was a big contrast to Gerhard Schroeder's US critical election campaigns. With Schroeder replaced by Angela Merkel and Chirac now replaced by Sarkozy, many Americans were looking forward to a new era in transatlantic relations led by a younger generation of pro-American leaders in Europe.

I did not buy all this hype, but have been very critical of Sarkozy (and to a lesser extent of Merkel) and concluded in November that we are witnessing Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, but not in Substance. Kyle has been frustrated by Sarkozy as well: Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo.

In the last few months, however, President Sarkozy announced some policy changes that indicate more support for US interests, so perhaps I should reconsider my position on Sarko. Gaelle Fisher has written a very balanced analysis on the question "Has Sarkozy truly improved the state of transatlantic relations and earned his reputation as the most pro-American president France has ever had?" She presents three arguments in favor and three against in a pro & con feature on Atlantic Community: Sarkozy l' Américain? Here is a snippet:

Sarkozy has agreed to increase France's contribution to the war effort in Afghanistan by adding 1500 to 1700 to the existing French contingent of 1600, sending combat troops to the East, and providing military arsenal. Yet the main new element of French military cooperation with the United States is Sarkozy's commitment to reintegrating France into NATO's military wing.

Or is that Trojan horse?

On Sarko's first anniversary in power, the French are very critical of his domestic policies (and his style), but I wonder what Americans think of his foreign policy. Has he met your expectations? Has he repaired the damage in transatlantic relations as expected by many in the US media? Whether you are an American or not, I appreciate your comments here and on Atlantic Community.

Afghanistan: Merkel Has "No Time" for Burden Sharing Proposals

Chancellor Merkel attacked suggestions that Germany had taken the easy option in Afghanistan: "We're not just digging wells and building houses; we also have a military mission."  Hugh Williamson reports in the Financial Times:

In her most outspoken comments on Afghanistan since Germany came under pressure this month to send more troops, the German chancellor said she had "absolutely no time" for proposals to redeploy Nato troops within Afghanistan.

According to Williamson she made those comments in a meeting with foreign correspondents in Berlin. It's bad diplomacy to tell the foreign press that she has no time to consider proposals for better burden sharing in Afghanistan. Usually, Merkel is more careful. Continue reading "Afghanistan: Merkel Has "No Time" for Burden Sharing Proposals"

Military Leaders Outline Plan for New Transatlantic Bargain

A group of European and American military leaders co-authored a report that was released last week, titled Toward a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World, Renewing Transatlantic Partnership (PDF version available from CSIS). The top brass – all with NATO experience – argue that the Alliance remains critical to both Europe and the US:
We are convinced that there is no security for Europe without the US, but we also dare to submit that there is no hope for the US to sustain its role as the world’s sole superpower without the Europeans as allies.
The manifesto begins by arguing that many current and future threats – such as terrorism, international crime, demographic shifts, energy security, climate change, etc. – cannot effectively be addressed by any single country on its own. Instead, NATO provides the best opportunity for western countries to address new threats because it "links together a group of countries that share the most important values and convictions and that took a decision to defend those values and convictions collectively."

Continue reading "Military Leaders Outline Plan for New Transatlantic Bargain"

Iran: Merkel, Sarkozy and "The Desperate Man"

Last week Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy had a photoshoot with "the desperate man", and I don't mean President Bush, but a painting by French artist Gustave Courbet. The NY Times used the photo as an illustration of its article "Despite Report, France and Germany Keep Pressure on Iran."

Apparently the German and French leaders said they had not changed their minds despite the findings of the American intelligence estimate released Monday, which some believed would have eroded support for tougher new sanctions.

BAGnewsNotes writes about the NY Times article and republishes the photo and asks an interesting question: "How does the painting -- a self-portrait by French artist Gustave Courbet titled 'Desperate Man' -- map to the story, as well as mix with the interplay between the heads of state?"