October 30, 2002 | Executive Summary on Europe
The reelection of Gerhard Schröder as Chancellor of Germany in September symbolized the end of an era in close post-war relations between Washington and Berlin. The Chancellor held on to power after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) ran a fiercely anti-American election campaign based on German opposition to U.S. policy with regard to Iraq and other issues. The result has been immense harm to the U.S.-German alliance, which had been carefully nurtured over the past half century. In the words of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the SPD's election strategy has had the effect of "poisoning" relations between Germany and the United States.
One of the new German administration's first priorities must be to repair the damage done to the U.S.-German alliance, once held up as a model of transatlantic friendship. President George Bush should make it clear that the onus is now on the leaders of Germany to demonstrate that they are serious about healing the rift they caused. Berlin will need to offer more than empty platitudes to demonstrate that it is serious about rebuilding relations with the United States. What is needed is a concerted effort on the part of Germany's government to show that it wishes to be taken seriously as a leading partner in the fight against global terrorism and state sponsors of terrorism. Berlin must show that the Chancellor's talk of "unlimited solidarity" with the United States is more than just window dressing.
If the German government chooses to actively hinder U.S. policy towards Iraq on the international stage, Washington may conclude that Germany is not taking its treaty obligations seriously, which could impact U.S.-German cooperation on military technology, training of German forces in the United States, and the sharing of intelligence. The United States may also examine its position on Germany's candidacy for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Germany's political leadership faces a stark choice in the weeks ahead. Berlin can either remain in splendid isolation within Europe and on the international stage by opposing action against Baghdad, or it can join in what may be one of the biggest international coalitions ever assembled to remove a rogue dictatorship from power. If Berlin refuses to stand by its allies in confronting the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, it will be seen as increasingly irrelevant in the global fight against international terrorism.
--Dr. Nile Gardiner is Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy, and Helle Dale is Deputy Director, in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.