Friday, June 5, 2009

American-Germanic Relations

Apparently, there is some tension with Germany:

DRESDEN, Germany — After mending fences with the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, President Obama might want to keep his diplomatic tools handy for his stopover here, to repair his increasingly strained relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A rift has quietly opened up between Germany and the United States, marked by official statements of harmony and private grumbling. It is not an outright crisis in relations, but there are underlying tensions and disagreements on matters ranging from the global economic crisis to the future of inmates held at Guantánamo Bay.

On a more basic level, there is a sense that the Obama administration is ignoring the needs and counsel of longtime allies. The United States can ill afford to alienate Europe’s largest economy and its most important intermediary in the strained relationship with Russia.

Mr. Obama arrived in Dresden, in the former East Germany, on Thursday night for a visit that will also take him to Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp, and the American military hospital in Landstuhl. The German news media have questioned why Mr. Obama was not going to Berlin, suggesting the omission might have been intended as a snub to Mrs. Merkel. Her advisers say it is no such thing and instead praise Mr. Obama’s interest in the former East Germany, where Mrs. Merkel grew up.

While Mr. Obama enjoys tremendous personal popularity among the German people, relations with Mrs. Merkel have been bumpy from the beginning. In Germany much symbolic weight is attached to Mrs. Merkel’s decision not to travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Obama in March, but to talk by video conference instead.

But signs of discord were evident even last summer, when Mrs. Merkel rejected Mr. Obama’s request during the presidential campaign to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, saying it was not an appropriate location for a candidate’s address. Mr. Obama drew more than 200,000 people to hear his speech at a nearby monument.

The president’s high standing with the German public adds to the strain in his relationship with Mrs. Merkel, local analysts say. “Obama is so popular with the German people that you have a lot of comments like, ‘Why don’t we have a German Obama?’ ” said Dietmar Herz, director of the Erfurt School of Public Policy. “Angela Merkel is seen as the exact opposite of a charismatic leader like Obama, and that is difficult to accept.”

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s popularity with the left-wing Social Democrats, rivals to Mrs. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union in parliamentary elections in September, also helps amplify his and Mrs. Merkel’s differences. The Social Democrats, who are the junior party in an unhappy coalition under Mrs. Merkel, have embraced Mr. Obama as a natural ally.

“The Christian Democrats were closer to the Bush administration than they admitted,” Mr. Herz said. “It was very difficult for conservatives like the chancellor to admit that she was close to a lot of his policies.”

Relations were already frosty as the economic crisis deepened and the German government and Obama administration took sharply differing views on how far to push stimulus spending. Mrs. Merkel believed that the Americans were underestimating the threat of inflation. But American policy makers said she did not understand the depth and the significance of the crisis.

In the early stages of the Obama presidency, officials in the Merkel government were dismayed by the scarcity of staff in midlevel positions at the Treasury Department. And Germans remain surprised that an ambassador to their country has not been named more than four months after Mr. Obama’s inauguration. 

German government officials were outraged that a low-ranking American official was sent for the negotiations to find a way to keep the traditional automaker Opel going despite the bankruptcy of its parent company, General Motors, in the United States. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love Germany. Heck, if I had to live anywhere else in the world, I would want it to be in Germany. It seems to me though, she is playing politics.