A Kerry Conundrum for Schröder | Current Affairs | DW | 21.09.2004
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Current Affairs

A Kerry Conundrum for Schröder

The overwhelming majority of Germans say they'd prefer John Kerry as US president instead of George Bush. However, having Kerry in the White House wouldn't necessarily make Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's life any easier.

Preferable to Bush?

Preferable to Bush?

A recent poll by the Canadian opinion research firm Globescan asked some 34,000 people in 35 countries on their preferences for this year's US presidential race In Germany, a whopping 74 percent of respondents were for Kerry, with only 10 percent supporting Bush.

Besides making himself unpopular with the majority of Germans, Bush's unilateralist policies and decision to invade Iraq have also strained relations with several European leaders -- most notably Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac.

Kerry says he would try to repair ties with America's traditional allies by taking a more multilateral approach to world affairs. While that would likely help mend the transatlantic rift caused by the US-led campaign in Iraq, it could also present a serious dilemma for vehement war opponents Schröder and Chirac.

In a speech on Monday, Kerry said if elected he would push for greater international involvement in Iraq, which would increase pressure on Paris and Berlin to contribute troops to help stabilize the troubled country.

"It's true that Kerry could make things more difficult for the Europeans because he could force them to decide what they are really prepared to do," Bernhard May, an expert on transatlantic ties at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, told DW-WORLD.

European troops

Jacques Chirac und Gerhard Schröder in Hannover

Kerry could put Chirac and Schröder in a difficult position

According to Der Spiegel newsmagazine, Richard Holbrooke, expected to become Secretary of State if Kerry is elected, recently told Schröder the first thing the new US president would do would be to invite the German chancellor and Chirac to the White House. The implication being that he would push for a greater European military presence in Iraq.

"The president should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a UN protection force," Kerry said in New York on Monday. "This won't be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the UN."

May cautioned that what the candidate Kerry says now is not necessarily what he would do if in office. But he added it would be difficult for Germany and France to reject a plea from Kerry to help protect a United Nations in Iraq.

Germany has so far said it would only help train Iraqi police -- outside of Iraq. But Berlin would likely feel compelled to take part in a multilateral UN mission in the country, since Germany is currently campaigning for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

"If Germany wants a seat on the Security Council it may have to be prepared to show it is willing to take on more responsibility," May said, adding that Berlin would have to reorganize its troops overseas in order to free some up for deployment in Iraq.

Germany's armed forces are currently stretched to the limit with thousands of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere helping in the global fight against terrorism. However, an EU police force could relieve military troops in Kosovo, which could then become part of a UN protection force.

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