RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight, Germany and the war in Iraq. The longtime American ally split with the Bush administration when it went to war last spring. The German foreign minister is in Washington talking with the administration officials about postwar Iraq. I talked with Joschka Fischer this morning at the German ambassador's residence in Washington.
RAY SUAREZ: In just the last several days, the United States has announced its desire to accelerate the transition of day-to-day management of affairs to Iraqis, given a date next year. Does this create an opening for Germany to move into closer consultation with the United States on working in Iraq?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Well, we are always in close consultations because we are close allies. We had our differences about whether it's wise to take that step to go into the war with Iraq, but now we must win the peace together. So we were, from the very beginning, in favor of using the Petersburg-type model by creating and reconstructing an Afghan authority. And of course, I mean, we hope that as soon as possible, this process will move forward. We hope that it will be backed by the U.N. in the Security Council, because this creates a broader legitimacy in the Arab world and within the Iraqi people. So we encourage our American friends to move forward as soon as possible.
RAY SUAREZ: Does this create more of a possibility of direct German involvement in some form in the reconstruction of Iraq?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Well, we are involved in reconstruction. We have a small but highly efficient team in reconstruction of the water supply in Baghdad. We are funding humanitarian projects. We are ready to contribute and enlarge our efforts to reconstruct Iraq, and the chancellor told the president during the meeting in September in New York City that we are ready to train police, as we did in Afghanistan. But in parallel to that, we focused on Afghanistan, we increased the amount of our troops not only in Kabul, within our ISF mission, but now also in the North. So we will focus militarily on Afghanistan, and we are, I think after the United States, the biggest troop contributor in Afghanistan.
RAY SUAREZ: Do German citizens see it in the way that your government does? Is there domestic support for what you're doing in Afghanistan, and might we also see the same kind of support for future activity in Iraq?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: We have difficulties at the moment with the support by domestic reasons. But I think in the foreign policy, the support is pretty... pretty strong and broad. And of course, I mean, when I said to you we have to win, or we must win the peace together, I mean there is one reason: Because if the United States, if the coalition will fail, terror will follow. This is not... from my view, to give in is not an option. So we have to rethink, maybe to readjust the strategy and the policy. We are in favor of, as soon as possible, create a legitimate Iraqi authority, and as soon as possible, engage the U.N. and get a strong backing from the U.N. because this is very important for the legitimization of the whole process.
RAY SUAREZ: Talk a little bit more about that, the role of the U.N. The United States has run hot and cold on just this question. "It would be helpful if we had the support, but we can do what we need to do if we don't have it." You seem to see the U.N. as a much more vital role player in this regard.
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Well, I don't share the view that there is a contradiction between the U.N. and the United States. The United States is the only world power. And during my five years in the office as a foreign minister, I experienced many times that without the power of the United States, it's impossible to solve crises. The Indian/Pakistani crisis is very dangerous, and one... after this terrible terror attack on the parliament in Delhi where they started the discussion about whether they will use nuclear weapons. I mean, this was a very serious crisis. And together with the Europeans, the United States cooled down the situation. We had it in Liberia. We had it in Sierra Leone and in many other places-- in the Balkans. The Middle East conflict... without the United States, it's impossible to keep the order in this world and solve crises and give the world a more secure future. But on the other side, even the power of the United States, the biggest power, is limited. And the U.N. system has one element which I think a national state, even the most powerful, has not. And this is the legitimacy based on the consensus in the Security Council. So I'm in favor of reform of the U.N. system. And I'm in favor that a new world order must rest on these two pillars: The world power of the United States and the U.N. system. I don't see there a contradiction. We have to bring that together.
RAY SUAREZ: One of your EU partners and also a member of the permanent five, France, has not been as encouraged by this latest American gesture toward a faster transition. They want something... they say they want something much faster, something much deeper. Are you in sort of... between the two countries?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: We don't want to intervene in the Franco-American relations. We watch them very carefully. France is our most important ally inside the European Union. The United States is our most important ally outside the European Union. We watch them very carefully. From the very beginning, we're in favor of such a process, defining transition of serenity to a legitimate Iraqi authority. Our concern is the speed, is the whole process moving forward in the right speed because there is a negative dynamic on the other side. We see these terrorist attacks with terrible consequences, and therefore we hope that our American friends will move as soon as possible. And broadly based-- this is the second element by the U.N. and the Security Council.
RAY SUAREZ: The period roughly from the last German national election to the days just before the invasion of Iraq by the United States was described widely as one of the lowest periods in the German-American relationship since the end of the Second World War. Where are they now?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: I never believed that our relations in the substance were bad. I mean, we had our differences, but I mean, we were in close discussion with our American friends. And it was pretty tough for us because we will never forget. I mean, the United States liberated us from Nazism. My country didn't do it by itself. You defended us during the Cold War. You defended West Berlin and West Germany, and you supported us immediately in the unification. So it was pretty tough for us, because this is one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy: Close relations to the United States, and integration of the European Union. These are two major elements or principles of our foreign policy. We are moving forward now. And I think our engagement in the war against terror, our engagement in Afghanistan, our support in Iraq, I think it's substantial. And by the way, I mean, the American Congress now has decided about $85 billion. I mean, that's almost exactly the amount of money we transfer since 1990 from west to east in Germany, each year since unification. So our possibilities in financial terms are limited, and I hope this will be understood.
RAY SUAREZ: But if there has been an improvement-- and it seems like there has been...
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Definitely.
RAY SUAREZ:... Is it more of substance? Did one side have to move toward the other, or did you just get more comfortable with the idea that there were just certain things you weren't going to agree on?
JOSCHKA FISCHER: We have a great tradition in our relations since the German democracy was founded, and it was strongly supported by the United States at that time, and over the decades. We have a strong people-to-people relationship. I think for your servicemen, Germany is a country where they like to live, I think second ranking after the United States. And even during the war where we didn't agree, I mean, we did a lot. We protected the bases, free air space, the Landau Hospital and so on, and our anti-chemical warfare unit in Kuwait during the war cooperated very closely with our Czech friends and the United States. So I mean, we are allies. We had our differences, but we are allies, and this alliance is very important for us.
RAY SUAREZ: Foreign Minister Fischer, thanks for being with us.
JOSCHKA FISCHER: Thank you very much.