President Bush Meets With Gerhard Schroeder to Rebuild Partnership
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RAY SUAREZ: For more now we get three views, both German and American: Karl Kaiser is the former director of the German Council on Foreign Relations; he’s now a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Jackson Janes is the executive director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. And Stephan Richter is publisher of The Globalist, an online magazine that focuses on the global economy, politics, history and culture…
Karl Kaiser, what was significant? What stuck out in either what was said or wasn’t said in the encounter between the German chancellor and the American president today?
KARL KAISER: Well, I think the most important aspect, as far as I’m concerned, is first of all, the change in style. It is not everything, but it is important that there is an amicable tone again among the two leaders.
Second, that on a number of really very important issues the two leaders agreed — on the role of the alliance; on the importance of European integration and on the necessity to cooperate on the future of Iraq. All three issues are extremely important for the relationship between the United States and Germany.
RAY SUAREZ: Jackson Janes is that how you saw it?
JACKSON JANES: I think so. I mean, I think there was probably a lot of good music set. The agenda is still out there. There are a lot of things we have to come down on in terms of exactly with what we are going to do in terms of Iran, for example or in terms of dealing with the Chinese situation, or lifting of the arms embargo. But the fact is, is that we are already doing a lot with Germany, and I think that that is something that the relationship that they have, and the message that they send can build on in the future.
RAY SUAREZ: Stephan Richter, a lot of good music?
STEPHAN RICHTER: Music, yes, but unfortunately I think most Europeans and Germans certainly will look at the president’s visit as having said a lot of the right words, they would wish he would have said those things four years ago and not wasted some years intervening. But ultimately people don’t quite believe this music; it is unfortunately, almost in a way reminiscent of when Ronald Reagan first met Mikhail Gorbachev.
He famously said trust but verify; meaning, I hear your words but I don’t quite believe them. It’s up to you to prove that on all these issues, we are more together than we’ve been before because, Mr. Bush, frankly, you’ve run away from the party that was the alliance. Your senior officials have talked about an alliance of the willing.
And now that the chancellor finally makes it an issue, whether all these issues should be put into the NATO basket, and I think there are many people even in the United Kingdom, leading journalists who are saying Schroeder raises the right issue. All of a sudden NATO becomes the key basket for the United States. That is a little bit disingenuous, and I think we have really moved away from each other over the recent years.
RAY SUAREZ: Karl Kaiser, how are we to read the state of NATO and the U.S. and Germany’s role in it? Just recently the chancellor was speculating about whether it was the main avenue for Europe and the United States to talk to each other on security issues?
KARL KAISER: Well, I don’t quite agree with what was just said. Policy always begins with concepts and words. That was also true for Gorbachev. And in the end, he did what he said. So the same we have to assume now.
It is extremely important that these messages on the alliance or on Europe are passed on because they’re also messages to the domestic politics of the United States and to groups here — for example those who thought the United States should no longer support European unity, that that is not the policy of the president. That is in itself important.
And as far as the alliance is concerned, Gerhardt Schroeder in Munich did say it is no longer the central forum for alliance consultation on strategic issues. He was misunderstood then. But now the president of the United States backs him, which means that he would like to reinvigorate the alliance. That is exactly what Gerhardt Schroeder wanted. We would like and all Europeans would like the Americans to come back to the alliance. Treat it and consult the allies and not act unilaterally. So I think at least a door is open and hopefully it will work.
RAY SUAREZ: Quick response, Stephan Richter?
STEPHAN RICHTER: I think Karl has a very good point. The question, however, is even if we assume that the president did change his mind with what he very explicitly said in Europe, it very much sounds like it, whether he is going to be able to get all the senators, the members of the House, all the commentariat, all the pundits to really follow on his line because you look into the newspapers and elsewhere every day, there’s somebody who is tear ago part some other thing where the Europeans are disingenuous, unfriendly or something.
And it really reminds me in some funny way that Europe is viewed with the same unease that women’s lib, for God’s sake, is irritating quite a few people in the United States. We are living in a very natural process of moving away from a world that was dominated by patriarchy where the United States or the man of the house always ruled the roost. We are living in a world where it is much more about partnerships, where in a daily fashion you try to get together.
And that is something the president mouthed the words for, certainly during this visit — quite opposed to what he said until just this visit, because he now says, for example, don’t bring democracy by force. And you know, is it a case of presidential leisure really when you look at what he did in Iran? We can honor his word, but the burden on Mr. Bush especially on the Middle East where he spoke very courageously is going to be awfully high, and I have my doubts that he is going to be able to deliver his domestic troops because frankly how can he all of a sudden make nice with the Europeans as he articulated while he still hasn’t found any domestic peace with the Democrats?
Europeans can’t in my view be treated better in terms of the deal the president strikes than the Democrats at home. And so I from 25 years of living in this town would have my doubts even though I agree with what Karl says — that the president made the right moves. Whether he can deliver that because we’re so ingrained in a back biting mechanism that everything the Europeans are doing is bad; that it is going to be hard to turn around.
RAY SUAREZ: But Jackson James, weren’t there actual as opposed to just symbolic moves toward each other on the part of these two big partners over how to approach Iran, over training Iraqi officers for the new security forces, talking about who’s in charge of different policy?
JACKSON JANES: Absolutely. And I think that’s the question that is going to come up. How are we going to manage our respective resources to deal with these common problems? I think it is going to be a very pragmatic approach. I think we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve done in the Balkans, which is a good success story and Afghanistan in particular.
I think that there will be operational room for us to manage our resources, but also manage our expectations. And that goes for our expectations at home as well as from each other. You’ve mentioned the fact that there may be problems that the president has at home in terms of managing his political base. Well, the chancellor has the same problem. And he is going to be facing a very serious election in May.
A lot of the domestic politics are flowing into foreign policy considerations as they did as you mentioned in your opening remarks there 2002. So managing our expectations and managing our resources in a practical way, I think is going to be the challenges that we’re both going to face on both sides of the Atlantic.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me follow up a little bit on those domestic considerations. Past elections were certainly won, but is it difficult, given the feelings of the German public today, for Gerhardt Schroeder to be seen moving too close to Bush?
JACKSON JANES: I think so. I think so. There was an equation that was being struck by both men to be consistent and to be cooperative. And that’s a kind of a different, interesting balance to strike. The chancellor had to be consistent and say, “Mr. President I’m not sending troops in to Iraq but I will help you in other ways. I’ll be cooperative.”
The president said I’m being consistent about the fact that I want to bring freedom and liberty to other parts of the world and we all have to join in that process but I want to be cooperative in how we get there. So both of them I think are facing domestic parameters that they have to live with while they try to be cooperative. It’s not an easy task.
RAY SUAREZ: Karl Kaiser, can Germany continue to develop its sort of relationship at the heart of the EU, the Franco-German alliance and still be, have the same kind of relationship it had through much of the post-war period with the United States?
KARL KAISER: Unlike Joe Joffer who thinks that they are ganging up against the United States, I believe that there are lots of issues where on the one hand they will cooperate. But I do not see the Franco-German relationship as the central relationship to build up Europe so to speak as a counter weight to the United States.
There will be some issues where one has difference of opinion. There will be others where Germany as in the past will try to mediate between the French and the American position. That is the one the German political class feel the most comfortable with. I’m afraid that the negative predictions are probably wrong on this score. We must not forget that in the economic field the relationship grows closer every day. And this visit itself, when you look at the Iran issue, for example, after all, brought out a certain — a great amount of unity.
Although later on, if the three Europeans fail, for example, Iran goes nuclear, then there’s going to be a real problem. But we are not there yet. Bush stressed we must speak with one voice. They’re all speaking with one voice. And for that reason, I do still believe that the American-European alliance at this stage is sort of coming back on track.
RAY SUAREZ: Stephan Richter, do you agree?
STEPHAN RICHTER: I wish it were so. I think it’s very important to mention that the chancellor said today that we are going to focus more on the things where we agree than where we disagree. So instead of saying in the past we agree to disagree — we are now making nice in the spirit of Condoleezza Rice’s visit, and I don’t want to belittle the strategic issues that are at hand.
But I think what we are seeing from this visit when we look back at it years from now is that this is really the onset of the multi-polar world because it is not that the Europeans now need to handle the Iranians or will be diminished in their status in Washington; we live in a world now where everybody deals with everybody on every other issue and I think it will be very good for the United States if it stops antagonizing major countries all the time whether it’s China, Europe or Russia and focuses more on a constructive relationship.
I think that’s where the Europeans have led the way; they’re no softies but they focus on the cooperative, constructive relationship with India, and China and so on. And that’s the world we are moving towards. And so I would not put too much weight on to the president and the United States as important as this country remains but it is not the only game maybe in this town but not in the world anymore.
RAY SUAREZ: But in the particular case of Iran, President Bush explicitly endorsed the work of the EU trio, Britain, France and Germany. What about Karl Kaiser’s point that if that doesn’t work, there is going to be a big problem?
STEPHAN RICHTER: Well, there is a big problem because the United States has, like with Cuba, declared Iran for the past 25 years, an untouchable country. For the superpower of the world to have a nuisance or a big threat, however you want to put it, an important country, in my view, as Iran, where you declare you can’t touch it, we’ve seen where it led with Cuba.
The Europeans are trying to clean this up but an American policy of well, you know, we are not going to touch it, you handle it for us is somewhat disingenuous. And I would wish that the president, you know, keeps moving in that direction that he expressed. He said a lot of the right words, he now has to follow up on that.
RAY SUAREZ: Thank you all. That’s all the time we have for now.