Facing Tough Election, Schroder Turns to Bush, Again ; the German Chancellor - a Vociferous Opponent of the Iraq War - Meets with President Bush in Washington Monday

Article excerpt

The last time he faced the prospect of electoral defeat, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder turned President Bush's foreign policy into a campaign rally cry, plunging German and American relations to their lowest point since the end of World War II.

As Mr. Schroder visits Washington Monday, he is once again politically embattled, with his weakened Social Democrats (SPD) facing an emboldened Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in early elections this September. And he will no doubt use Mr. Bush to improve his voter support. But this time, analysts say, Schroder won't be driving the anti-Bush bandwagon he rode to victory in 2002.

Instead, the two-term leader is hoping his appearance with Bush will remind German voters of the greater international profile he has given his country. And he's expected to press Germany's case for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council - a bid the US has opposed.

In short, Schroder is doing everything he can to turn attention away from Germany's troubled economy.

"He will be able to go back to Germany and say, 'I stood up to Bush on the Iraq war, but nonetheless I can still go to the White House and have serious discussions with the President,' " says Karen Donfried, director of policy programs for the German Marshall Fund in Washington.

The image fits into the grander foreign policy vision Schroder has fashioned. Since he became chancellor in 1998, Germany has sent its soldiers into conflict regions, cast itself as a European Union (EU) power player and, in general, led the sort of foreign policy unthinkable even a decade ago.

"Moving about quietly is a thing of the past," says Andreas Maurer, an analyst at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "Schroder has tried to make the phrase 'looking out for national interests' part of the vocabulary."

Germany's louder voice has brought with it more responsibility. The next chancellor will have a major say on everything from Iran's nuclear ambitions to EU enlargement.

Efforts to expand the EU to include Turkey and other nations have been greeted with some resistance in Germany, which fears competition from cheaper labor markets to the east. …


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