The Future of German-US Relations | Current Affairs | DW | 23.02.2005
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Current Affairs

The Future of German-US Relations

With President George W. Bush heading for Germany Wednesday, United States expert Knud Krakau analyzed the state of relations between the two countries in an interview with DW-WORLD.

Managing a tough relationship: Bush and Schröder

Managing a tough relationship: Bush and Schröder

Relations between Washington and Berlin seem to be thawing once more as it becomes clear to both countries that they need each other to achieve individual and common goals. President Bush arrives in Germany on Wednesday and US expert Knud Krakau believes the visit carries great importance.

DW-WORLD: After nearly three years, George W. Bush is coming to Germany again. Is it a chance for German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to revive German-American relations? What are the common political goals?

Knud Krakau: Bush and Schröder do not need to revive German-American relations. The majority of topics within the relationship -- the economy, culture, the personal exchanges --these have not been affected by the political tensions surrounding the Iraq conflict. Now there are common interests such as the Middle East and Iran and the will is there to solve these problems pragmatically.

Germany is taking part in the reconstruction of Iraq through the education of Iraqi policemen but that engagement was not enough for the US . Now, the EU's foreign ministers have called for a decision on an EU mission in Iraq . Will this be enough for Bush?

The US would gladly have more military support in Iraq. However, they know not to rely on this. Coalition forces are reducing in Iraq; Poland and Spain have already pulled troops out. The US is under no illusions and has accepted this. Hope lies, instead, in an area which is becoming more and more important: the infrastructure in Iraq. Those Europeans who have refused any military help up to now look more favorably on this. The EU and Germany have an interest in a peaceful Iraq, not only because of the oil but also for political and moral reasons.

Could new divisions open up between Berlin and Washington over the Iran nuclear situation?

The differences are already out in the open. The Europeans want Iran to come to the negotiating table so both sides can come away with satisfactory results. However, the problem is that the Europeans lack the weight to negotiate with attractive offers. The US views the European approach with skepticism and therein lies the current dilemma. If the US does not fully support the European efforts, then Europe risks losing the trust of Iran. Germany, Britain and France should get the whole weight of the EU behind their negotiations. The US is currently more determined to listen to Europe than any time during the first Bush administration. To bring the US into a real engagement is vital for the success of the negotiations.

Do Schröder's demands for a reform of NATO add strain to German-American relations?

No, I do not think so. Schröder's thrust in Munich was only the idea about a possible reform. Schröder's suggestions have only been reported in this way because they were not discussed with European partners and the US. This could open up possible developments, the cementing of ideological policies between the USA and Europe. For Schröder, this discussion adds profile and weight to Germany at a time when the country is lobbying for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Could Bush have an interest Germany being represented on the Security Council?

If the US does have an interest, it has not showed it very clearly as yet. The answer could be yes and no. Germany, as a medium power on the global stage, carries weight and respect in the world. If relations between the US, Europe and Germany level out, Germany can possibly play a role in the Security Council. But having a privileged position with veto power could prove problematic. This could create irritations.

Bush will speak in Mainz about the basis of trans-Atlantic relations but which values link Germany and the USA ?

The common democratic, liberal and Christian values are sure to be brought up and it is always good to stress these over and over again. The US tried to renounce Old Europe but found that they needed the Europeans when it came to reconstruction in Iraq. Now Bush will try to use these common values to gather political support.

Is it a political signal that Bush visits Mainz and not the federal capital of Berlin ?

Maybe it's an attempt to negotiate with German society rather than on a political level with the federal government and say: We are a trans-Atlantic community, irrespective of the disagreements that have taken place at government level. In this respect, it is a gesture.

Knud Krakau is professor of North American history at the John F. Kennedy Institute in Berlin .

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