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Germany

Germans positive about NATO leaders, dislike Afghanistan mission

An influential survey finds that Germans support NATO, and hold France and especially new US President Barack Obama in high esteem. But they’re still skeptical on keeping troops in Afghanistan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in front of German and NATO flags

Chancellor Merkel will have to consider conflicting German opinions on NATO

Germans remain impressed with Barack Obama, think France is their most trustworthy partner among nations, and support NATO – but not their country's participation in the alliance's Afghan military mission. That's according to the new Deutschlandtrend survey, a bi-monthly poll that tracks German opinions on newsworthy topics conducted by the public broadcast network ARD (of which Deutsche Welle is a member).

A robust 84 percent of Germans believe NATO is important as an instrument of keeping stability and peace within Europe. And 61 percent think NATO should keep looking after Afghanistan. But just 32 percent want to keep German troops in that country, a full ten percent less than the month before.

As Croatia and Slovenia prepare for their initiation into NATO this week, Germans said they were wary of expanding NATO further. Only 36 percent agreed to the proposition that NATO should take on additional members from eastern Europe and the Balkans.

If these views seem to be at odds with the policy aims of the United States, who would like to see an expanded European military role in Afghanistan and a bigger NATO, that has not soured Germans on the new US President Barack Obama.

The Stifts church on the market place in Baden-Baden is relected in a window of a gift shop

Germany is excited to greet Barack Obama

Four out of five Germans are pleased with the performance of Obama in his first two months in office, and nearly nine out of ten said that Obama had set the US back on the right track. 82 percent were looking forward to Obama's visit to Germany this week for the NATO summit, and just over three-quarters said they wished Germany could produce a politician like him.

The Obama effect may have helped the US out in the survey's question about which countries Germans consider to be trusted partners. 78 percent said they saw the US as such, continuing an upward trend since George W. Bush's team left office.

The country that led the list, however, was France. 87 percent of Germans say their Western neighbor is a trusted partner, up just slightly from the previous month.

Germany and France are co-hosting this weekend's NATO summit, and have forged a very close relationship in economic policy-setting in recent months. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a forceful, united front in the run-up to this week's G20 summit, and achieved most of their goals to tighten international financial regulation.

However, when Germans were asked who they thought was most likely to come up with a solution to getting out of the global economic crisis, they went back to their first love: Barack Obama. 80 percent of Germans thought he was likely to devise an effective plan, compared with 58 percent for Angela Merkel, 55 percent for the European Union, and 49 percent for Social Democratic challenger for the chancellorship in this autumn's general election, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The survey was conducted on the 30th and 31st of March, polled 1000 Germans, and has a margin of error of 1.4-3.1 percent.