Angela Merkel's Germany; America-Bashing No Longer in Vogue

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Angela Merkel's Germany; America-Bashing No Longer in Vogue


Byline: Jim Geraghty, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

ANKARA, Turkey. - Seven months ago in these pages, I wrote that Angela Merkel, then the Christian Democrat candidate in Germany's elections, had not "strained any muscles riding to the rescue of America's reputation" and that she had earned her label as "a letdown." I predicted her assumption to the position of chancellor would constitute only a "moderate improvement" in U.S.-German relations.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maximum dummkopf.

After about five months in office Chancellor Merkel's style has gone from frumpy to feisty, and her rhetoric in office, from an American perspective, has been downright dreamy.

From 1998 to 2005, Germany's voice on the world stage was Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, offering a dark and bitter brew of America-bashing, cynicism, cheap opportunism and mealy mouthed platitudes. True to his character, Mr. Schroeder is now a $300,000 per year consultant for a Russian energy consortium with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a job that he accepted about two weeks after leaving office.

To call Mrs. Merkel a breath of fresh air is an understatement. Addressing German legislators on March 29, she shocked Berlin's staid foreign-policy establishment with a stirring address outlining a tough-minded determination to stand up for German principles abroad.

She cited the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity who faced the death penalty. (Rahman is now safely in Italy.) Mrs. Merkel was among those applying the most diplomatic pressure on the Afghan regime, along with officials in the United States and Italy. Mrs. Merkel declared it "appalling" and was among the first to telephone Afghan president Hamid Karzai and twist some arms diplomatically.

Regarding Iran's nuclear program, Mrs. Merkel has taken a much tougher line than her predecessor. She compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Adolf Hitler. After he threatened to wipe Israel off the map, Mrs. Merkel declared, "Iran has blatantly crossed the red line. I say it as a German chancellor. A president who questions Israel's right to exist, a president who denies the Holocaust, cannot expect to receive any tolerance from Germany."

She also denounced Belarussian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and the recent unfree, unfair elections in that country, and demonstrated much more idealism and fire in the belly on issues not related to the war on terror. She strongly defended a controversial plan to send German troops to Congo, where they are scheduled to monitor that country's parliamentary elections in June.

Perhaps most strikingly, Mrs. Merkel ripped into a widespread and disingenuous perspective among German political elites, who loudly call for thorny international crises to be referred to the United Nations, knowing that in all likelihood the United Nations will do nothing.

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