Thursday, January 12, 2006


Angela Merkel:
Our Friend
In Germany


John Vinocur, from the New York Times, on German leader, Angela Merkel:


Merkel is a leader who focused her first major speech on talking about freedom to a Germany historically obsessed with stability as a greater virtue ...Who believes Europe can never become strong and united in opposition to America.

And who wrote into the coalition agreement linking her Christian Democrats to the Social Democrats (in a government of not terribly like-minded parties) that Germans have to be educated again on the United States as creative force - when the polls show America has come to be regarded here with real mistrust.

Karsten Voigt, the Social Democrat who is a holdover as coordinator for German-American affairs in the Foreign Ministry, has caught the new line:

"Her positive America vision will have a real effect on policy. Freedom - it's very important to her. She means it."

This does not include German troops in Iraq. It involves telling Bush, as Merkel indicated over the weekend, that the Guantánamo Bay prison camp mustn't exist "in the longer term."

But it does signify, in relation to the Middle East, what Voigt called an emphasis on establishing new values there - "more human rights, more accountability. It's a gradual process, not an absolute approach." … [Among the] examples, registered by visitors, of its anything-but-adversarial stance in relation to areas of American concern (no deep-reading or textual exegesis required): …

• A clear refusal to go along with French efforts to lift the EU's embargo on arms sales to China, while maintaining cooperation with France as a vital element of German European policy.…

Fundamentally, this means - my take here - that Germany drops playing tag-along to France's vision of a world divided into rival poles; stops demonizing the United States; and abandons as a serious mistake the France-Russia-Germany axis exemplified in Gerhard Schröder's seduction by Putin, the old KGB recruiter.

It's not overdone to believe these choices involve Merkel's deepest convictions. She is forever a child of the Soviet orbit and four decades of totalitarianism growing up in East Germany. In Merkel's mind, the Reagan years signaled the downfall of the old order and German unification, not marching in protest against America's missile and Star Wars programs.