Category Archives: Phony US/EU ‘Rift’

French Defend Afghan Military Role

WSJ | Feb 9, 2010


PARIS—French Defense Minister Hervé Morin defended his country’s decision to send only 80 additional military trainers to Afghanistan, saying France has increased its presence by 1,300 soldiers in less than two years.

Speaking after meetings here with his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Mr. Morin said Paris had sent hundreds of additional troops—which brought France’s presence to about 3,700—at a time “no other European country was increasing their strength” in Afghanistan.

“We have made an enormous effort since July 2008,” Mr. Morin said.

The French decision, announced last week at a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization defense ministers, came in response to the Obama administration’s call in December for allies to quickly send more troops to augment the 30,000 committed by the White House as part of President Barack Obama’s surge.

France was the last major ally to announce its commitment, and the 80 trainers were far fewer than the U.S. had anticipated. The French announcement follows a similarly lower-than-expected move from another major troop supplier, Germany, which will add 850 troops.

The war remains unpopular in both countries, and the government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy faces important regional elections next month, which likely played a role in Mr. Sarkozy’s decision to make only a token increase, analysts said.

Despite the French decision and last month’s announcement by Germany that it would contribute 850 additional troops, also below U.S. expectations, other commitments have exceeded expectations.

Mr. Gates refrained from criticism during a news conference with Mr. Morin.

Instead, he praised the French effort in Afghanistan, saying it was “important to maintain some perspective” in light of France’s increase in troop strength since 2008.

“Since this conflict began, thousands of French troops have served courageously alongside American forces and other members of the coalition, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr. Gates said.

The two also discussed a dispute over a French move to sell an amphibious assault ship to Russia. Paris said Monday that it had agreed to the sale of a Mistral-class warship to Russia. Eastern European NATO allies have criticized the deal and the U.S. has weighed in on their behalf.

Transatlantic EU-US “rift” over global crisis being overplayed

G20 summit: EU and US are sparring, not feuding

A much-written-about transatlantic “rift” between Europe and the US on the response to the financial crisis may have been overplayed.

Telegraph | Mar 23, 2009

By Pierre Briançon

Framed in somewhat hackneyed terms, this is the debate: the US wants to focus on stimulus – which Europeans are resisting. And the EU wants to talk about financial regulation – which the US supposedly isn’t that interested in. But in reality the two sides aren’t that far apart.

Ben Bernanke’s speech this week at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests that common ground does exist. By calling for broad reforms and stricter financial regulations – not only in the US, but on a global scale – the Federal Reserve chairman seemed to sing in tune with the French and German leaders, who are trying to place the issue at the top of the April G20 meeting in London.

There are certainly differences of position and perspective. The US, as the largest debtor nation in the world, would like others to help.

Europe – some tend to forget – is a common market bound by a common currency, but not an economic policy decision centre. European leaders fear that talking mostly about the stimulus at the G20 would squander an opportunity to address the deep-rooted causes of the crisis. And some in the US feel that Europe should get a better sense of urgency about the recession.

But American decision-makers recognize that better regulation is crucial and necessarily global while European leaders are sensitive to the daily flow of dismal figures, followed by other terrible numbers showing the recession is worse than thought. They can’t simply wait for the distant results expected from their stimulus plans. In any case, everyone is trying out the same basic remedies: aggressive monetary and fiscal policies, support for the financial system, and a few doses of populism

The US and Europe should recognize that they have plenty of common ground. Then they could take the G20 meeting seriously, work on concrete proposals and forget about scoring political points. This shouldn’t be too much to ask. Adversarial rhetoric is risky, especially in a crisis.

Obama calls G-20 “rift” over global crisis a “phony debate”

Obama today said there is no conflict between the goals of increased spending and greater regulation, calling it a “phony debate.”

Bloomberg | Mar 14, 2009

Obama Denies G-20 Rift Over How Best to Handle Global Crisis

By Kim Chipman

March 14 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama dismissed suggestions that the U.S. and some European allies disagree on how best to combat the deepening global recession as leaders of the world’s biggest economies prepare for a summit next month.

“There’s no conflict or contradiction between the positions of the G-20 countries and how we’re going to be moving forward,” Obama said today in a news conference with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “There’s going to be a difference in details. Those are being worked on right now. I expect to have a productive meeting.”

Finance ministers from the Group of 20, which comprises the biggest developed and emerging economies, ended a meeting today in London without making an explicit commitment to increased government spending to stimulate growth, as the U.S. had been urging. Instead, the group pledged a “sustained” effort to clean up the non-performing assets that are burdening the balance sheets of banks and freezing lending.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner approached the G- 20 meeting by lobbying his opposite numbers to follow the U.S. in injecting fiscal stimulus equivalent to at least 2 percent of their economy’s gross domestic product this year. European officials argued they had already spent enough, had bigger social safety nets and didn’t want to blow out budgets. European leaders have also stressed the need for greater financial regulation.

London Summit

The finance ministers’ meeting was held in preparation for a G-20 summit scheduled to take place in London on April 2. The group comprises the world’s largest developed and emerging economies.

Obama today said there is no conflict between the goals of increased spending and greater regulation, calling it a “phony debate.”

“I can’t be clearer in saying that there are no sides,” Obama said.

The Democratic president, who pushed a $787 billion stimulus package through Congress last month as part of his broader plan to jumpstart the economy with tax cuts and new government spending, stressed his support for rewriting the rules overseeing the country’s financial system.

“We have to do financial regulation, and nobody is going to be a more vigorous promoter of the need for a reform,” he said, adding that he expects such efforts will occur within individual countries as opposed to joint efforts.

“There’s going to need to be coordination between the various countries,” he said.

Monitoring Board

Obama noted that some European nations have increased spending in an attempt to boost their economies. He said there should be an international oversight board “that is accounting for how much stimulus is taking place out there.” That way, “various foreign ministries can keep track of what’s happening with respect to global demand.”

Officials within the Obama administration have repeatedly said they aren’t solely focused on a larger stimulus and seek to impose curbs on markets to prevent future turmoil.

White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers said in Washington earlier this week that the administration will announce details of its plan to overhaul banking rules in the next few weeks.

G-20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union.

Germany Covered Up Iraq War Role

The involvement of German agents in Iraq could have political repercussions

Deutsche Welle | Sep 18, 2008

The German government under former Chancellor Schroeder covered up its spy role in the US war against Iraq, opposition parties said. An investigatory committee questioned two intelligence agents accused of aiding the US.

Two German spies in Baghdad actively supported the 2003 US invasion of Iraq despite government denials, opposition parties said.

The politicians made their comments were before the two intelligence agents gave testimony behind closed doors to a parliamentary panel on Thursday, Sept. 18.

Contradictory evidence

“The records unfortunately contradict completely the government’s position that it was not involved,” Norman Paech, a member of the investigative committee from the Left Party, told Reuters news service before the hearing.

A Federal Intelligence Service (BND) fact-finding commission on the Iraq war has begun investigating the role played by current Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the invasion.

The BND debriefed two agents in Baghdad who they believe passed “relevant war data” to the BND headquarters in Pullach. That information was then sent to US headquarters in Qatar, the BND said.

Embarrassment for Steinmeier

The issue could prove embarrassing to Steinmeier, the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor in next year’s elections. As head of the Chancellery under Schroeder, it was Steinmeier who oversaw intelligence operations at the time of the US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The case caused uproar when it leaked out in early 2006, because both the German government and public opinion strongly opposed the US invasion. Then-Chancellor Schroeder tapped this anti-war sentiment to win a close election in 2002.

Peach and fellow committee member Hans-Christian Stroebele from the opposition Green party said the spies in Baghdad passed on information about expected resistance and coordinates for military positions that were subsequently bombed.

Information on bombing raids

It was unclear whether Steinmeier was aware of these activities, Stroebele told Reuters.

Max Stadler from the free-market liberal FDP said it was important not to leap to conclusions, but that the spies had fed information on the effectiveness of bombing raids.

In one case, US bombers struck an Iraqi officers club twice in four days after getting feedback from the agents.

The Social Democrats, now coalition partners with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, rejected accusations that the spies’ work had led directly to military action.

“No evidence for this has been presented so far,” SPD delegate Michael Hartmann told Reuters.

Response from Steinmeier

Steinmeier said in a newspaper interview that the public would not buy the argument that the presence of two BND spies in Iraq was enough “to make Germany a warring party after the fact.”

Germany’s spy chief and the agents had assured members of parliament in January 2006 that they did not help the United States pick out bombing targets during the invasion of Iraq, but that failed to halt demands for an inquiry.

German spies ‘helped’ US Baghdad bombing

Two German spies are to testify over allegations that they delivered targeting information for US air strikes on Baghdad, despite Germany opposing the war in Iraq.

Telegraph | Sep 11, 2008

The covert activities could derail the Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier’s attempts to defeat Angela Merkel at the next general election.

At the outset of the US-led war against Saddam Hussein, Mr Steinmeier was chief of staff to the then chancellor Gerhard Schroder and was responsible for co-ordinating the work of Germany’s intelligence services.

Mr Schroder narrowly won the 2002 election with a pledge that his country would take no part in the impending war in Iraq.

According to leaked documents published by Stern magazine the spies’ testimonies could prove embarrassing to the Social Democrat Party.

It appears that Mr Schroder and Mr Steinmeier may have struck a secret deal with the US to provide intelligence which would aid the “shock and awe” bombardment of Iraq and clear the way for the coalition invasion.

Stern said: “The agents, Lieutenant-Colonel Rainer Mahner and Chief Superintendent Volker Heinster, are the physical embodiment of the lie perpetrated by the then Chancellor Gerhard Schroder which he used to win the September 2002 general election.

“The lie of: No to the Iraq war.”

It is claimed that just weeks after the election the head of the German intelligence service received approval from the chancellor’s office to deploy a team of agents in Baghdad.

It is alleged that German intelligence liaised with the CIA after gaining Mr Steinmeier’s approval and according to a leaked security service memo, dated November 28 2002, it was agreed that German agents would report to the US command in Qatar.

They advised on satellite photography, a national newspaper reported.

Germans give Obama rock star welcome in Berlin

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama waves to the crowd of 200,000 after making a speech in front of the Victory Column (Siegessaeule) in Berlin July 24, 2008. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

Reuters | Jul 24, 2008

By Kerstin Gehmlich

BERLIN (Reuters) – Barack Obama got rock star treatment from hundreds of thousands of adoring Germans on Thursday, who climbed lamp posts to get a glimpse of the U.S. candidate they would like to vote for but can’t.

“He’s a pop star politician. Germany doesn’t have any of those,” said student Johannes Ellendorf, one of more than 200,000 people listening to Obama’s speech in the centre of Berlin.

Waves of applause roared through the wide boulevard linking the Brandenburg Gate with the Victory Column, as Obama told Berliners the United States and Europe had to stand together and be partners who listened to each other.

Relations between Germany and the United States cooled over the invasion of Iraq, and many Germans said they hoped for a renewal in ties under a possible new U.S. president.

“I was really struck by his message for peace — that we shouldn’t just focus on every single conflict between Germany and the United States but look at our shared responsibility,” said 40-year-old Matthias Bauschulte.

Watching the crowds, 65-year-old Hans-Gerd Stoever said the excited atmosphere reminded him of the scene in 1963, when he watched U.S. President John F. Kennedy tell a cheering crowd “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).

“The streets were so crowded then, everybody was full of expectations — like now,” the white-haired Stoever said.

“But it’s a completely different situation today. We live in a different world. And Obama has to walk his own way,” he said.


Obamamania grips Europe

Buttons with the image of Democratic US presidential contender Barack Obama, some tittled ‘Obamafest’ others provided with the date of the politician’s visit in Berlin, Germany, 24 July 2008. The souvenirs are being sold near Berlin’s Victory Column, where Obama gave a public speech about his idea of the future transatlantic relations later in the day. EPA/GERO BRELOER

Barack Obama delivers a largely successful speech to a massive crowd in Berlin

Economist | Jul 24, 2008

BARACK OBAMA set himself a difficult task for his extraordinary appearance in Berlin on Thursday July 24th. He said that he came not to campaign but to deliver a “substantive address” on the pointy-headed subject of trans-Atlantic relations.

Yet the crowd was expected to number in the tens of thousands. The listeners were mainly European, but the real audience was in America. He needed to tell voters what they want to hear, while rousing those who had flocked to see him. He sought to remind people of American presidents who had become legends by winning Berliners’ hearts and minds, but could not afford to appear presumptuous.

In the end he largely pulled it off, though the speech was not quite as substantive as advertised. The police estimated that 200,000 people—perhaps the largest live audience that Mr Obama has ever addressed—thronged the boulevard that stretches between the Prussian Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate. Despite jams at the entrances and poor reception at the back of the crowd, most did not appear to be disappointed. He was “cosmopolitan, not only American,” said Garunya Karunahramoorthy, a student of international relations from Berlin. “He’s a world citizen”. In bowing to a foreign audience, Mr Obama seemed to give new life to the idea of the American century.

Mr Obama achieved that by fusing an older tradition of American beneficence with a contemporary emphasis on multilateralism, which he was careful to call “partnership”. The Berlin setting gave him a chance to make partnership seem the most patriotic thing in the world, and he exploited it to the full. He began by reminding Berliners that America had helped them to break the Soviet-imposed blockade of 1948-49 and to knock down the Berlin wall four decades later. But he acknowledged that the relationship had lately become troubled. “On both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart”, he admitted. Europe began to see America “as part of what has gone wrong”, overlooking its sacrifices for “freedom around the world”. And America, he confessed, “had made our share of mistakes”.

The bits of Mr Obama’s rhetoric that were most popular with the locals were aimed at convincing them that America would make fewer mistakes in an Obama presidency. It would “reject torture and stand for the rule of law”, strive for “a world without nuclear weapons” and follow the Germans’ example in setting ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions that cause global warming. The American Mars would no longer trample the sensitivities of the European Venus. “America has no better partner than Europe”, he declared.

If Mr Obama had left it at that, his Republican rivals might have put together a case that he was keener to defend European values than American ones. But he was staunch in defence of American interests, and made it plain that partnership would come with a price. “We must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it”, he declared. “Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions.” But the United States cannot accomplish such tasks on its own. And that means that reluctant Europeans—Germans in particular—will have to contribute more than they have done to such ventures as the war in Afghanistan. “My country and yours have a stake in seeing that Nato’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success.”

Participants in Mr Obama’s meetings with German chancellor Angela Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier report that he charmed and impressed them. The throng was also content, although one man rightly wondered “how he could deliver” on everything he promised.

Mr Obama’s view of the world is no sunnier than George Bush’s: it is equally menaced by terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and genocide and more so by global warming. But Mr Obama promises—in fact demands—a more co-operative approach to solving such problems. New walls threaten to divide religions, tribes and classes. The answer, he said, attempting to sound like Kennedy and Reagan rolled into one, is to tear them down.