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Obama’s best Revenge: go to Berlin

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Barack Obama visits Germany, but skips Berlin. A roundmail about the president’s itinerary, sent around by the White House, didn’t even mention Germany: it was from Cairo right away to France.

Former concentration camp Buchenwald and U.S. Landstuhl Military Hospital are Obama’s destinations here – not Berlin, although he might have got the Brandenburg Gate this time.

Sarkozy, on the other hand, has engendered the desired attention. Obama will stay one extra night. Well… when you have the choice between nightlife in Berlin, or Paris…

Washington considers chancellor Merkel unwieldy, hesitant, impolite, and therefore unwise. Unwieldy because her refusal to let Obama have the Brandenburg Gate as a background for his speech in Berlin last summer. Impolite and unwise, because she declined an audience at the White House in April, because she didn’t need the plane trip and would see Obama in London at the G20 summit anyway.

On economic matters, she is considered rather uninformed, especially since her conduct at the beginning of the global financial crisis, when she underestimated its magnitude and thought of it as a mostly American problem. The European stimulus action was pushed mostly with French support. Ever since, Germany has been sidelined when important economic decisions are taken, in places such as the IMF. Merkel keeps silent about it.

When Opel’s future was negotiated, the U.S. administration sent a representative with a White House intern’s  decision-making power. In the end, Merkel had to give Obama a phonecall to get decisions.

Stephen Szabo, the Transatlantic Academy’s director: “Currently, France is hip. The impression here is that the Germans are rather useless.”

Meantime, the IMF’s head is French, France is back in Nato’s military structures, it has a military base at the Persian Gulf, and isn’t only active in Africa, and while Merkel demanded the closure of Guantanamo, her interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declines to admit any of the camp’s detainees into Germany.

The new U.S. administration feels that Germany tries to dodge its military duties within NATO. Merkel had made it clear long before Obama’s inauguration that noone should expect more military contributions from Germany. The country’s 4,100 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan seem to guard their military camps in the first place, while soldiers from other allies have to do most of the fighting – and of the dieing.

The new administration apparently wants to show that it doesn’t need Germany, and Merkel wants to avoid an open confrontation.

Obama’s war without words may feel good for him. It may even help to get Germany to work.

But he could have done better. He could have delivered another big speech in Berlin. And he could have hammered an important news home to the German public: that their country, just as America itself, is at war. He had made some hints last July, in Berlin. But he needs to become more explicit. Once he will have made the German public understand that Germany is at war, too, he will really have hurt Merkel. Because so far, this big war is the grand coalition’s dirty little secret.

And while the American president tours the federal state of Saxony, Germans will happily stay in their state of denial.


Written by taide

June 5, 2009 at 9:04 am

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