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Germany

Schröder in Washington to Meet Bush

On Monday, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is meeting US President George Bush in the White House for talks on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the developments in the Middle East and the EU.

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An upbeat Schröder talking to journalists enroute to the US

Relations between Washington and Berlin became furiously strained around the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq and it wasn't until Bush visited Germany at the start of the year that things between the two countries began to normalize.

During that trip, Bush was full of praise for Europe's nuclear negotiations with Iran. And as the EU slipped into crisis following the failed referenda in France and the Netherlands, he expressed his hope for a strong Europe.

But beneath the surface of the official courtesy, relations between this US administration and Germany's ruling coalition remain tense. Just one week ago, German Defense Minister Peter Struck cancelled a trip to the US because his counterpart in the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, wouldn't give him enough time.

Donald H. Rumsfeld Pressekonferenz

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

For his part, Rumsfeld knows that Germany won't give him the military backup his forces in Iraq need. Michael O'Hanlon of the political science research organization, Brookings Institution said that's part of the problem.

"Our military in Iraq is on the brink of collapse," he said. "France and Germany have the capacity to help us if they want to, but we know they won't do that. And President Bush won't even bother addressing the issue although we could really do with the help."

Bad taste lingers

Washington knows very well that Germany is on the brink of a change of government, and members of the White House still clearly remember that Schröder went into the last federal elections down on US policy on Iraq.

"It would have been okay if Schröder had simply said, 'The war in Iraq is a bad idea, that's my position and I'm sticking to it,'" O'Hanlon said. "But to make the whole thing a US adventure and to imply that President Bush is more of a threat to the world than everyone else was wrong and unproductive, and cannot be justified by the current difficulties in Iraq."

Joschka Fischer bei Condoleezza Rice

Fischer with Rice in Washington on June 8

The residue is sticky, and has doubtless contributed to Washington's cool reception to the German bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer felt the gentle slap of rejection during his recent trip to Washington, when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice politely told him where Berlin could stick its bid.


If there is one thing, however, that has emerged unscathed from the rocky spell between Berlin and Washington, it is economic relations. The US remains Germany's second largest export market and the third largest importer of German goods.

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