As George W. Bush makes his farewell tour to Europe, former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said the US has suffered a "large loss of influence and respect" under Bush's presidency.
Genscher said that Europeans' low opinion of Bush was "without precedent" in the post-World War II era. It's a stinging message for the US president, who visited Germany on Friday and is currently in Britain.
"Something has happened that the Europeans, as good friends of the US, have deeply regretted: a large loss of influence and respect for the US," Genscher told regional public radio SWR last week.
"We immensely regret this. And the president has done everything to widen the distance between the US and Europe," the veteran foreign minister said.
Genscher: Obama is a cultural revolution
He recalled how European countries had pledged their support to the US following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, invoking the NATO mutual defense clause for the first time in the alliance's history.
But Bush had opted for an "alliance of the willing" instead of NATO, which Genscher described as "the alliance of the reliable and capable."
Genscher, foreign minister from 1974 to 1992 and a member of the free-market and liberal Free Democrats, noted that Bush's ratings were also at an historic low in the US itself.
The presidential candidacy of Barack Obama should be seen in this context, he said, describing his success as a "kind of cultural revolution."
"This is an answer to the policies of Bush and it is evident that this incredibly vital American democracy is recovering its powers and making the attempt to return to its great ideals," Genscher said.
Iraq invasion marks trans-Atlantic nadir
US-German relations plummeted to a post-war low when Gerhard Schroeder, chancellor at the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, based his successful campaign for re-election on opposition to the Iraq War.
Genscher was foreign minister under Chancellors Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, holding office through major changes, such as Brandt's "Ostpolitik" -- opening up to the communist east -- and German reunification under Kohl.