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Merkel's leadership derided by US diplomats

The Local · 29 Nov 2010, 16:08

Published: 29 Nov 2010 16:08 GMT+01:00

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In a message attributed to a US diplomat in Berlin dated March 24, 2009, the State Department is told that Merkel is "risk averse and rarely creative," Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.

"The Americans argue that the chancellor views international diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit from it domestically," the magazine wrote.

Merkel's vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, comes in for harsher criticism in the secret documents and is described as incompetent, vain and critical of America, the magazine said.

An embassy cable from Berlin from September 22, 2009, days before the general election that put him in office, describes Westerwelle as having an "exuberant personality" but little foreign policy experience.

"That is why he finds it difficult to take a backseat when it comes to any matters of dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel," the cable quoted by Der Spiegel says.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany's most popular politician, is quoted as telling the US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, in February 2010 that Westerwelle was the real barrier to a US request for an increase in the number of German troops in Afghanistan.

Guttenberg also disparages his boss, saying that Merkel has trouble implementing her own economic policies.

And Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats, is shown as unaware that half of 40,000 US troops in Germany are based in his state, which he also governs.

The State Department documents show Washington was kept abreast of coalition negotiations by an informant while Merkel was forming her current government in October 2009.

A German diplomatic source said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called Westerwelle on Friday to "express her regret about the impending publication of internal US documents."

Meanwhile US Ambassador Murphy said Monday that there is no reason to apologise to either Westerwelle or Merkel for the information contained in the leaked documents.

“It’s not about apologies,” he said in an interview with daily Der Tagesspiegel.

“Luckily I am in constant contact with Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Westerwelle, which won’t change, and I am certain that we will get through both this difficult phase on both a governmental and personal level.”

Murphy added that he had the “utmost respect” for both politicians.

“There will be a few difficult days, but I am certain that the German-American relationship won’t be permanently damaged by these tensions,” he said. “We’ll survive.”

But the ambassador also said he was “furious” about the leaks, calling it “irresponsible to publish such documents” which only serve to “cause political and personal damage.”

Former US ambassador to Germany John Kornblum, who served in Berlin from 1997 to 2001, told broadcaster ZDF on Monday that the leaks were a crisis for German-American relations.

“Diplomacy...must function on the basis of trust, and when that trust if broken, as is the case now, then one must begin at almost zero again,” he said.

“The era in which we could speak to each other and say, ‘Don’t worry, that won’t make it into the papers,’ is over,” he said.

Story continues below…

Kornblum rejected criticism that the US diplomatic corps functions like an intelligence service, though.

“If one has an informant, that doesn’t mean that it’s about intelligence gathering,” he told ZDF.

On Monday German officials blasted Wikileaks’ choice to release the information as illegal and a potential security threat, but said they would not undermine transatlantic ties.

"We have close and friendly relations with the US government, and they will remain so ... These are documents that were acquired illegally and which are being used to make money," Foreign Minister Westerwelle said.

"A few gossipy comments about European politicians are not exactly welcome but they are not really important. But in other cases, people's lives could be put at risk," he told reporters.

And government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular press briefing that Berlin's ties with Washington would weather the diplomatic storm.

"The German-American relationship is mature, it has grown so robust over the decades, it is such a deep friendship based on shared values that it will not be seriously damaged by this publication," he said.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:10 November 29, 2010 by catjones
The German's criticisms of their leaders is more harsh than those leaked from the U.S. Yawn.
11:20 November 29, 2010 by wood artist
I'm really struggling to see exactly what the creators of wikileaks hope to accomplish here.

It is inevitable that diplomats will share their personal thoughts about their counterparts from other countries. As they discuss sensitive matters, all diplomats must feel that they can express candid opinions, even if they are only used as a way to move negotiations forward or deal with other issues. These disclosures serve no public purpose, and can easily hinder legitimate work.

Unlike something like the famous Pentagon Papers, that revealed acknowledged flaws in the US government's positions about the war in Vietnam, disclosures such as these don't inform the public, nor create a valuable dialogue regarding public policy. Leaders need to be able to solicit candid advice without fear that private conversations will become public. It would no different if a conversation between husband and wife regarding a relative or friend was made public.

Dumb. Worse yet, destructive for no purpose other than being destructive.

12:06 November 29, 2010 by adipk
So Funnnnyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!. I feared that wikileaks may be a puppet as well. Let see. anyway laugh right now.
14:11 November 29, 2010 by iseedaftpeople
I think what wikileaks has done is both daring and noble.

Too long has the notion of our "democratically elected" leaders been that they don't have to answer to the people. That their backroom politics are nobody's business but their own, and that their citizens are merely voting sheeple who don't matter in between elections.

But... as far as American hubris in dealing with foreign governments, actually there's nothing new here. It just confirms what most of the world has always thought.
14:27 November 29, 2010 by auniquecorn
It´s a set-up,

But what can I say, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange most likely grew up being a tattle-tail and never had any friends anyway.
14:34 November 29, 2010 by mixxim
whoever thought she was a raver?
16:29 November 29, 2010 by Beachrider
Some world powers would have found a way to silence Wikileaks. It is not the American way. Wikileaks damage is structural and not revelations of Treason. In that way, it seems an indulgent use of the free-press concept.

I don't know that we can jail anyone for this kind of indulgence. I suppose that we should focus on the conduit between secret-repositories and Wikileaks.

Although the bulk of the data isn't damning or 'dark side', the release of the data will be exploited for its 'dark side' potential.
17:23 November 29, 2010 by lordkorner
"The Americans argue that the chancellor views international diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit from it domestically," the magazine wrote." Sounds like good politics to me.
17:39 November 29, 2010 by Jerr-Berlin
As an American citizen, living in Germany...what a joke...can there be any more feckless, incompetent, warmongering imbeciles than those running the American Empire these days...
18:35 November 29, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Yes. The feckless, incompetent, warmongering, imbecilic criminals who ran the American Empire from 2001 to 2009.
19:25 November 29, 2010 by catjones
@iseedaftpeople..before you claim the holier-than-thou moral high ground, let's wait to read the leaks from the German communiques. Where's your supporting evidence of what 'most of the world' is thinking?
20:50 November 29, 2010 by Lancer565
Well I would swap Germany's Merkel for the two crazy cranks who've nominated themselves to run Britain any time.
22:08 November 29, 2010 by Incredible14U
Merkel weak??? the german economy is strong they have direction, sometimes if it ain't broke don't fix it !! unlike the usa which is floundering and lost under a blanket dictatorship. Take merkel any day...
00:20 November 30, 2010 by bartschaff

""The Americans argue that the chancellor views international diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit from it domestically," the magazine wrote." Sounds like good politics to me."

No. It sounds like horrible politics. The keyword here is "she": "how *she* can profit from it", it says, while her perspective should be of how can *Germany* profit from it.
01:40 November 30, 2010 by harrylatour

I completely agree.The whole of society has always existed on half truths,innuendo,lies,character assasination,telling tales etc,,that is the human condition like it or not.And of course that applies to US LOT TOO!! How often has a friend told you something about another friend,,in confidence of course,,and what did YOU DO??? Well,whether you told or not,ruined a circle of friends or not,,it was YOUR CHOICE!! Not FORCED on you by people like ''Julien''. I reckon he used to tell the teachers everything at school.So stick to the important stuff Julien,like who has the bombs etc and dont be a fool and ruin real diplomacy with tittle tattle.That is just meaningless spite!!
03:35 November 30, 2010 by DOZ
Just sour grapes as the USA's World-Economic-Leader Status is becoming a History Lesson. Germany will face ever increasing Fictional-Assessments from North America now that they have lost control of Europes Economic Machine.
13:42 November 30, 2010 by greattoucan
In the spy world, the first thing that is said is "Consider the source...."

An incompetent foreign minister is one who lets 250,000 secret dispatches get published around the world.
10:24 December 1, 2010 by raandy
Doz,,I would not want to bet on the future of the Euro Zone ..I would assume as long as Germany dosn't run out of money bailing out it's ailing Euro partners the Euro will survive.
23:29 December 1, 2010 by rogerpaul
The only reason that the Americans are upset is that the leaks have shown that the US has no influence, (Biden was begging in Iraq!) and its diplomats are dim witted sycophants who say one thing and do another. Until now, their close supporters in the media have framed the raw material. We all saw how that worked out in Iraq. Decrying wikileaks is decrying ourselves. Why should these cables upset anyone........it just shows how mendacious and self serving the US, which claims to hail freedom and democracy, actually is!
01:54 December 2, 2010 by Prufrock2010
As an American, I can't argue with that.
09:38 December 2, 2010 by ECSNatale
So Wikileaks is now as incompetent, short sighted and self serving as the governments they wished to expose...what a joke they all are.

The so called leaders of the world aren't "leading" anything and the fact that they make snarky comments about each other isn't news. They're all just benefitting from the fact that most of us wake up and get on with it and do what we have to each day regardless of whether they are "un original" or "lack experience".

The true criminals of this world are the big bankers and financiers who are doing things you will never know of until everything collapses around us - but of course then we will blame the politicians anyway. What's the point?
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