The world needs the US and Germany to work hand-in-hand, America’s former top diplomat in Berlin told DW. He also praised German Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s decision to visit the Martin Luther King memorial in Atlanta.
Philip Murphy was US ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013.
DW: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is currently in the US for a three day visit. How is he and Germany being perceived these days in Washington?
Philip Murphy: That the German Foreign Minister is in Washington is a very tangible statement about the closeness of the relationship, not just historically but in the here and now. We had Chancellor Merkel in Washington not long ago with the president and Frank Steinmeier visiting here with the secretary of state and the national security adviser is an important statement that we are working together on a whole range of foreign policy challenges.
Judging from yesterday's meeting with his counterpart John Kerry, are the German government and the Obama administration more on the same page these days on critical foreign policy issues like Iran, Ukraine and ISIS than the US government itself?
That is a good question, particularly given the very ill-advised and inappropriate letter that was sent by the Senate Republicans. It is a very good question to ask, but I will leave that to others, though, to analyze and decipher the current state of our internal deliberations. But I would say that we and Germany work very closely on many issues and you mentioned three of the most critical, Iran, Ukraine and ISIS. And I see an enormous amount of overlap of objectives and a very close working relationship between our two countries on all of those challenges and many more.
If you had to give a grade to the current state of US-German relations what grade would it be and why?
It would probably be the highest grade I could give. First, we have history on our side. We have decades of working together and knowing each others' moves across chancellors and presidents. But secondly, and importantly, in the here and now, the world needs a vibrant, functioning well-oiled relationship between Germany and the United States. We have no choice. And that is exactly what we have.
In addition, you have a president and a chancellor who know each other really, really well. They have been working together six plus years. They may look different, they may have different styles, but on the inside they are wired in a very similar way. You also on a parallel track have a foreign minister and a secretary of state who are veterans of the foreign policy establishment. It is Frank's second term as foreign minister, and John Kerry, after having served decades in the Senate on the Foreign Affairs Committee, is now a seasoned secretary of state.
So, not only do we know each other historically, and not only does the world need a vibrant German-American relationship, but these folks know the scene and understand the importance of the relationship to the global agenda for both of our countries. They know each other and their moves personally very well and I think for all of those reasons, the personal relationships, the history and the need for a vibrant German-American relationship I would give it a very high grade.
What do you make of Minister Steinmeier's decision to travel to Atlanta on Friday to visit the memorial for civil rights leader Martin Luther King?
I don't know the back story as it were, but I think it is a great gesture on his part. He is a very warm individual. He understands our country very deeply. He speaks the language. He understands the significance of leaders like Martin Luther King junior in our history and I think it is terrific that he is going there.