Opinion: Beware of the Crocodile′s Smile | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 08.05.2006
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Opinion: Beware of the Crocodile's Smile

Angela Merkel received many plaudits during her recent visit to Washington. But the hospitality afforded her may be part of a ruse to lure Germany into the US foreign policy fold, according to DW's Peter Philipp.


Is Angela Merkel's Germany being flattered into a dangerous relationship with the US?

It appears that German Chancellor Angela Merkel knows how to deal with the man in the White House. Just how well can be judged by the applause she gets on her visits to Washington.

The ease with which Merkel deals with Bush, the chemistry she helps to create between them and the success of the meetings between the two leaders can be judged by the length of these outbursts of appreciation and measured by how many minutes they run over their expected duration.

But while the applause can be used as a yardstick to gauge Merkel's growing stature in German-US affairs, the responses to the German chancellor are not just about her own performance and the growing respect for her in the States. It is not only Frau Merkel who is on the charm offensive. President Bush wants to win Germany and the Germans over and bring them into line with his foreign policy.

Bush turning on his own charm to win over Germany

Angela Merkel in Washington USA George Bush

President Bush is liking what he's hearing from Germany

Bush is now willing to appear on German talk shows and give exclusive interviews to tabloids as well as accepting an invitation from Merkel to visit her constituency in Germany.

He has also apparently swallowed the bitter pill of Germany's opposition to the Iraq war and has made clumsy attempts at expressing his understanding of why the Germans so vehemently opposed the 2003 invasion.

For Bush, Iraq is in the past. His current preoccupation is Iran. And to make any kind of progress in this situation, Bush needs all the support he can get.

There is none of that coming from China and Russia, about which the US issued a report calling Vladimir Putin's country a failing democracy. This is, however, nothing new in Washington's thinking, and Bush still considers Putin to be someone he can talk with.

Talk, maybe, but there is no guarantee that any discussions will be able to persuade Putin to take the US-favored stance on Iran. Merkel, however, is a different matter -- at least in Bush's view. While Russia and China see the perceived anti-Iran strategy in the US as an obstacle, Berlin appears to be aligned with Washington.

Is Berlin ready for the US version of diplomacy?

Angela Merkel in Washington USA George Bush

Is the chancellor ready to fully endorse US foreign policy?

Merkel's public declarations on this alignment are based on the common desire to solve "the problem" through diplomacy. However, it has long been accepted that the White House version of diplomacy means that the opposition must give in to the US way of thinking.

If this doesn't happen -- and Tehran has given no indication that it is ready to bend to US will -- then diplomacy gives way to the use of power.

Is Germany ready to follow the US down this path? Did Bush make a good case to the chancellor regarding this possibility in the privacy of the Oval Office? And if Merkel’s Germany is to follow Bush on Iran, will it also be prepared to back up US solidarity with Israel with action if necessary?

I Want You for the U.S. Army

When Gerhard Schröder declared a similar "unlimited solidarity" with the US after September 11, 2001, it alienated some Germans. And this time the consequences could be even more drastic.

Those who are celebrating a new dawn in German-US relations should look beyond the applause and the reciprocation of praise. Bush's outstretched arm is unlikely to be an invitation into a strategic partnership but more likely to be an echo of the Uncle Sam recruiting posters from World War I: "I Want You…"

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