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Can Berlin meet American expectations?

The Local · 2 Nov 2009, 18:42

Published: 02 Nov 2009 18:42 GMT+01:00

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It’s a tremendous honour for Chancellor Angela Merkel to address the US Congress this week, considering she’ll be the first German leader to do so since Konrad Adenauer in 1957. But the invitation from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi undoubtedly comes with strings attached. It’s a gesture that’s expected to be reciprocated. The message is clear: the German government is supposed to shoulder its part of the burden for America’s international commitments.

The reason for the invitation to Washington is that scepticism is growing amongst Americans about their country’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s especially the Democrats – with Pelosi representing the party’s left wing – who have no stomach for wars at the far ends of the earth. They want their government to put more money into health care reform and the creation of jobs at home. And it’s exactly the people without health insurance or those that are unemployed because of the global economic crisis that elected Barack Obama. The US president has to show them he’s making progress. Otherwise he’s going to get a political slap in the face during the mid-term elections in 2010.

During her trip to Washington, Merkel will come face to face with America’s demands – either while visiting Congress or meeting with Obama afterward. The US leadership could ask for more German money to stabilise Pakistan, a bigger contribution to Iraq’s reconstruction or more German troops for Afghanistan. The United States also wants Germany to support tougher sanctions to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Washington patiently waited the outcome of Germany’s general election in September, but following Merkel’s re-election the honeymoon is now over. Berlin is going to have to deliver.

If Merkel brushes off American demands, Germany could quickly find itself sidelined in international affairs. Berlin is only important if it’s willing to help carry the responsibilities of global leadership. If not, Germany will be condemned to remain a spectator in the future.

When it comes to the financial and economic crisis, the Americans also expect Germany to spend more to get the global economy back on track. If the chancellor once again calls for budgetary discipline while pointing to the risk of inflation, she’ll be walking on thin ice in Washington.

As for climate change, domestic politics is preventing the United States from taking the leading international role the chancellor and other European leaders want America to take. Obama is having trouble introducing new climate protection laws because of fears about their economic cost. His administration is also preoccupied with other important legislation like health care reform. So it’s unlikely Merkel will get very far with demands for the United States to do more to combat global warming.

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And with the United States likely to reject ambitious CO2 reduction targets at negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto treaty in Copenhagen, there could be an increasing strain on transatlantic ties in the coming months.

Dr. Josef Braml is a member of the Transatlantic Relations department of the German Council on Foreign Relations. Translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

19:47 November 2, 2009 by Psypher
?The message is clear: the German government is supposed to shoulder its part of the burden for America?s international commitments.?

They are not ?America's? international commitments, they are the ?West's? international commitments...lets not get that confused. (we can sit here all nice and comfy in the beergarten and say ?oh, that wasn't us! That was the US?. However, I can assure you, the mullahs and muftis in Saudi and Pakistan see it differently...

?The US leadership could ask for more German money to stabilise Pakistan, a bigger contribution to Iraq?s reconstruction or more German troops for Afghanistan.?

Stabilizing Pakistan is a good idea. More German troops for Afghanistan? Yep, probably necessary. Contributing to Iraq's reconstruction??? F U Obama!! I'll be pissed off if that happens. (We told the Americans in 2002 that ?Curveball? was full of sh!t...DIA wanted to take him for his word anyway!) They made their bed in the land of the two rivers....now sleep in it...or get the hell out, but don't even TRY to ask Germany to pay for a damn thing in Iraq.
22:30 November 2, 2009 by Wim van Couveren
¦quot;The message is clear: the German government is supposed to shoulder its part of the burden for America¦#39;s international commitments. ¦quot;

¦quot;Americans international commitments¦quot; - as the author disingenuously calls US bellicose foreign policy- unfortunately under Obama have not been altered since the reign of George W Stupid.

The new US Obama administration have not reacted in an objective manner in the middle east as they said they would, and have recently been forced yet again by another extremist right-wing Israel government to back down from promises to play as a neutral broker with the Palestinians. They have not had any dialogue with Iran, which they said they would begin, only made more threats. They have not done their home work on Afghanistan and seem to want to continue with the mindless Nato presence which has not built one school or one hospital and continues to support a corrupt government.

And the author is asking Germany to support this or face being ostracized by the US? Better to be ¦quot;side-lined¦quot; than line up with yet another loser-going no-where US foreign policy.
04:17 November 4, 2009 by kim proffitt
If history has taught us anything at all, it would have to be that the US does nothing without wanting something. The US never goes into a situation without being at least 3 steps ahead of the game. I would have to compare Pelosi to the hungry spider that invites the fly into her parlor. Be on the look out for that spider with the friendly smile or the next thing you may know your tied up in world affairs you never wanted into in the first place.
18:37 November 7, 2009 by Major B
Oh yes, more of the "terrible U.S." comments. Since the "fall of the wall", they keep on coming from the "old countries. Remember the days(about 50 years) when there was the Soviet threat and you "needed something" from the U.S. -- like protection? The U.S. wants something in return -- the Americans always want something. "Loser go nowhere US Policy" Mr Van Couveren? Do you mean a policy like the liberation of Holland in 1944? Not to mention 1917? How about that go nowhere policy, ah, oh yeah, the settlement of the Yugoslavia crisis, freedom for Kosovo. How about that damn go-nowhere policy when that Dutch commander ABANDONED the 6000 boys and men of Srebrenica in Bosnia and let those Serb bastards murder them. An American commander would never have done something that dishonerable. Yep, Iraq was a huge mistake, and there have been others, but ask some men and women in their 80's about your "go nowhere" U.S. policy.
19:00 November 7, 2009 by Psypher
ouch! I think someone just got pwned!!
16:59 November 9, 2009 by Wise Up!
Where's Obama? Why did he turn down Merkel's invitation?
13:22 November 10, 2009 by cubert
@Major B

You can not hold all germans, their children and the children of their children, responsible for what happened in the early 20th century forever. As for the US, yes, they helped, and the germans are grateful, why shouldn´t they. Things happended were horrible for all humanity, these abominable deeds this one german wack job did.

But i think what kim proffitt is trying to say is that you always have to look on both sides of the story. Going into war always means making profit. Why do you think the US spents 547 billion! every year in the military. Now, you don´t want to know how much is spent on education, believe me.

They got used to it and so they try to keep up war. At all costs, and this has been going on throughout the last century.

Furthermore, the germans are making themselves a target the longer they stick their nose in business not of their own, but just out of pure reciprocation. Things aren´t just black or white.
14:53 November 10, 2009 by Psypher

I respect your opinion (everyone is entitled to one), but I humbly disagree. As a German, it pains me to admit that the majority of Germans share your beliefs. Unfortunately, that's precisely the kind of thinking that's gonna get us all killed...

When someone's belief-system automatically designates you as "the enemy", it becomes "your business" (in the Machiavellian sense of the word).

Furthermore, Germany is in Afghanistan because after 11.9.2001 NATO invoked "Article 5". The concept of collective-security doesn't permit cherry-picking the conflicts that are politically convenient to take part in...
15:36 November 10, 2009 by Major B
Back @ Cubert

Profit making in war, what a concept. Well, again, Germany is the world's third largest exporter of arms. O.K., when those export led jobs are given up, those employed in the arms export business laid off/terminated, and those profits taken from the German economy, along with the associated tax revenues, I will concede to your point. Kim's comments are one sided, as if the U.S. is the only culprit in the international arms/war industry.
09:12 November 11, 2009 by cubert
,... that's precisely the kind of thinking that's gonna get us all killed...
I´m sorry if I didn´t make myself perfectly clear but why do you think that?

In my opinion sustaining jobs by all means, even if that me…[/quote]No, they´re not. Unfortunately not. War is still money making. And nearly everyone who would have the possibility to grab a piece of the cake would do so, no doubt about it. Sad but true.
15:31 November 11, 2009 by Psypher
I´m sorry if I didn´t make myself perfectly clear but why do you think that?
I'm talking about the kind of complacency that allows militant religious zealots to scheme and plot your demise from the safety of a "sovereign country", secure in the belief that no one is gonna do anything about it because they would prefer not to "stick their nose in business not of their own". Then we give them student visas and/or asylum and generally bend over backwards in the name of political correctness. Then, disgusted with our immoral Western ways, they preach hatred and violence in the gargantuan mosques WE built for them, and convince people to blow themselves up in our subways and marketplaces...

Don't want to fight ("reciprocated") wars overseas?! Ok, we can wait for them to bring the fight here (which they have already started), but I can guarantee you that you're not gonna like the measures necessary to fight these guys domestically (not to mention the cost to the civil-liberties you currently enjoy).
03:57 December 8, 2009 by Albertaclipper
The good ol US of A has always thought itself above reproach. Under the Guise of doing the right thing has kept it's industrial complex busy fullfilling the needs of war. Witness Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Panama. Kuwait, Iraq, Aftganistan, Lebanon and the mmany covert ops influencing political outcomes. WW 1 and 2 were bonuses. Entered into when the time was right for them.
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