German press review: Mixed reactions to Kunduz plan; Hoon on the Hotseat | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 28.08.2003
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German press review: Mixed reactions to Kunduz plan; Hoon on the Hotseat

The German papers on Wednesday focused on the German government decision to extend peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and the ongoing Hutton enquiry in the UK.


Britain's Minister of Defence Geoff Hoon could be made a scapegoat.

The German press registered a mixed reaction after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's announcement on Wednesday that Germany was ready to extend its peacekeeping in Afghanistan beyond Kabul. The Financial Times Deutschland welcomed the plan to send 250 German troops to the Kunduz region and wrote the Chancellor had shown that diplomacy and security policy needn't be restricted to "knee-jerk responses." The paper continued that the current German government policy of sending troops to the Hundukush region is bound up with its vision of a multilateral foreign policy and is all the more remarkable because foreign policy, the paper wrote, "is not one of the Chancellor's strong points. When coping in Afghanistan, Schröder is the circumspect strategist. When faced with decisions over Iraq, he merely does what it is expedient at that particular moment."

The Westfälischer Anzeiger disagreed, sounding an alarmist note. It wrote that, in Afghanistan, opponents of peace will not ask who is an aid worker and who is a soldier. And therefore it won't be long until Kunduz will like Baghdad, becoming the target of a new, stronger Taliban, "whose campaign of terror is no longer directed just at the United States. To pacify a country, to safeguard its reconstruction and maintain its stability calls for much time and plenty of resources and people. Much more than Germany can deliver," the paper warns.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was equally pessimistic. It described the Kunduz deployment as a "futile exercise" motivated by Schröder's will to improve relations with U.S. president George W. Bush. In sending troops to Kunduz, the German Chancellor hopes to avoid military involvement in Iraq, the paper wrote. But choosing the lesser evil probably won't work and certainly had no impact last time when Germany committed itself to the relatively harmless mission in Macedonia. The probability that it will deliver what the Chancellor expects this time around is minuscule.

A large section of the German press also focused on British Secretary of State for Defense Geoff Hoon's testimony to the Hutton enquiry on Wednesday. The Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote the British public will clamour for Hoon's resignation after he told the enquiry that there had never been a "conspiracy" to publicly name the dead Iraq weapons expert Dr. David Kelly. The paper said Hoon would have to go because a scapegoat is needed in the fall-out from allegations that Britain had "sexed up" evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war. But the paper also believed that Tony Blair will also have to make some kind of sacrifice. It wrote the British Prime Minister is losing his image: "a high price to pay for a politician of whom it was said he thrived on spin at the expense of content." Yet the paper also wrote its accusation is not entirely justified. Tony Blair has changed Britain, the paper wrote, and his policies have left their mark." He is also the first and most important representative of a new style of politics in Europe, which, without the marketing methods, would achieve nothing. Blair sees politics as a branch of the entertainment industry. He knows that image means just as much as a respectable tax reform package."