President George W. Bush
travels to Germany this week to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel
ahead of the G-8 summit in Moscow. In her first months as German
leader, Merkel has made a significant effort to improve relations
between Washington and Berlin in the wake of the tensions produced
by disagreements over the war in Iraq.
The overt hostility that characterized U.S.-German relations in the
Gerhard Schroeder era has largely disappeared, replaced by a more
cordial working relationship between the White House and the
Chancellery. Merkel's visits to Washington in January and May were
viewed widely as a foreign policy success, and Germany has worked
closely with Washington on an array of foreign policy issues,
including the Iranian nuclear crisis and the NATO operation in
However, despite the thaw
in relations between the United States and Germany, underlying
long-term tensions still remain, particularly in regard to the war
on terrorism, with Guantanamo and rendition remaining major issues
of contention. German public opinion is still largely hostile
toward U.S. foreign policy, and anti-Americanism remains a major
force in German politics. Many Germans
see America as a threat to world peace rather than as the defender
of international security and democracy.
Merkel's own freedom to
maneuver on the world stage is limited by her governing coalition
and the left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPD) members who hold
key positions in her administration. It
is striking that some of the most important portfolios in terms of
U.S. interests, including foreign affairs and economic policy, are
held by remnants of the Schroeder government, which could
barely disguise its contempt for the Bush
Schroeder's direct influence has continued
through the presence in the German cabinet of Frank-Walter
Steinmeier, his closest adviser and long-time
protégé. Steinmeier, who was Schroeder's chief of
staff, took over from Joschka Fischer as Germany's foreign
minister, widely regarded as the second most powerful position in
the German government. Steinmeier was extremely influential in
shaping Schroeder's international outlook and pledged "continuity"
in German foreign policy.
It should also be acknowledged that Angela
Merkel is no Margaret Thatcher. Merkel has demonstrated little
appetite for pushing the kind of intensive economic reform that
Germany needs to reverse years of stagnation. Astonishingly, she
has proposed tax increases as a solution to the country's
economic woes. As a committed Euro-federalist, Merkel is also a
firm believer in closer political integration in Europe, despite
the rejection of the European Constitution in France and Holland.
She has reiterated the traditional German view that France and
Germany together, "with their notions about the social market
economy and globalization," must remain the driving force of
the European Union.
an important ally in some areas critical to U.S. interests,
including the NATO mission in Afghanistan. However, it should also
be seen as a vociferous potential opponent of U.S. interests
in other key areas, including aspects of the war on terrorism, the
scrapping of trade subsidies in the European Union, the European
Constitution, and the role of international institutions and
treaties. The worldview in Germany, particularly in terms of
public opinion, is increasingly shifting away from that of the
United States. Germany has become a largely pacifist nation, with a
growing belief in submerging its national sovereignty and
identity within transnational institutions such as the
European Union and the United Nations. These trends are counter to
Recommendations for the Administration
Washington must adopt a hard-nosed approach in its
relationship with Germany, which is fundamentally different
from the close Anglo-American special relationship. The U.S. should
work with Germany on an issue-by-issue basis, cooperating with
Berlin on matters of closely aligned common interests but strongly
opposing German policy in areas of disagreement.
Specifically, the Bush Administration
healthy balance of power in Europe. It is in U.S. interests
that no single bloc dominate continental Europe. The straitjacketed
Franco-German axis driven by Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac
posed major problems for the U.S. in its efforts to build support
in Europe ahead of the Iraq war. The Bush Administration should
strongly back the new German government's efforts to implement
a more flexible policy in Europe by strengthening Germany's
bilateral ties with pro-U.S. allies such as Poland and Britain.
Closer relationships between Berlin and solid U.S. allies, as well
as a firm German commitment to the NATO alliance, will enhance
America's strategic influence in Europe.
Europe of nation-states. Washington should strongly
welcome the death of the European Constitution in the French and
Dutch referenda. The position of the Bush Administration
should be clear: The U.S. supports a Europe of democratic
nation-states where the principle of national sovereignty is
paramount and sacrosanct. Washington should offer no encouragement
for resurrecting the European Constitution, which two of the EU's
leading members have firmly rejected. The development of an
undemocratic, centralized Europe is in the interests of neither the
continent nor the United States.
greater U.S.-German cooperation in the war on terrorism.
Washington should both push Berlin to adopt a more aggressive role
in waging the global war on terrorism and call for a greater degree
of military, judicial, and intelligence cooperation between Germany
and the United States. President Bush should express strong
disapproval of the German decision to free convicted terrorist and
murderer Mohammad Ali Hammadi and seek a clear explanation of his
real reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Franco-German-driven CAP is the
world's largest barrier to free trade, accounting for 85 percent of
the world's agricultural subsidies.
The CAP accounts for a staggering 40 percent of the EU's €100
billion budget, and European taxpayers are forced to pay over
€80 billion in subsidies and higher food costs.
The biggest beneficiary has been France, whose farmers receive up
to a quarter of EU agricultural subsidies, amounting to over
€150 billion between 1994 and 2003.
The Bush Administration should call on Chancellor Merkel to
push for trade liberalization by the EU and advance the reform
process for a trade policy that is hugely damaging to the
United States, the developing world, and Europe
German economic reform.
Washington must push aggressively
for Germany to adopt market-friendly policies aimed at making
Germany a more competitive, open, and dynamic economy. As Germany's
largest trading partner outside of Europe, with bilateral trade
valued at nearly $155 billion, the United States has a huge vested
interest in the German economy
. Germany is also a major foreign
investor in the United States, with investments worth just under
$150 billion providing 800,000 U.S. jobs.
pressure on Iran.
The United States, Germany, Great Britain,
and other allies in Europe should forge an international coalition
to impose targeted economic sanctions on Iran and strengthen
military, intelligence, and security cooperation with
threatened states, such as Iraq, Turkey, Israel, and the members of
the Gulf Cooperation Council. The potential use of force to
disarm the Iranian regime as a last resort must also be on the
A Pragmatic Relationship
Washington must adopt a pragmatic, realistic approach toward
working with Germany. Realpolitik should be the order of the
day. As the EU member with the largest economy and largest
population, Germany is too important to be ignored. It is in the
U.S. interest to engage Berlin on an issue-by-issue basis, working
together where agreement can be reached. But Washington should be
under no illusion that the Germany of today is the same as the
Germany of Helmut Kohl or Konrad Adenauer in its approach to
Ph.D., is the Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow and Director
of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.