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.

Inside the hush-hush North American Union confab

State Department talks open borders, EU links

WorldNetDaily | Mar 13, 2008

By Jerome R. Corsi

WASHINGTON — A largely unreported meeting held at the State Department discussed integration of the U.S., Mexico and Canada in concert with a move toward a transatlantic union, linking a North American community with the European Union.

The meeting was held Monday under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy, or ACIEP. WND obtained press credentials and attended as an observer. The meeting was held under “Chatham House” rules that prohibit reporters from attributing specific comments to individual participants.

The State Department website noted the meeting was opened by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Daniel S. Sullivan and ACIEP Chairman Michael Gadbaw, vice president and senior counsel for General Electric’s International Law & Policy group since December 1990.

WND observed about 25 ACIEP members, including U.S. corporations involved in international trade, prominent U.S. business trade groups, law firms involved with international business law, international investment firms and other international trade consultants.

No members of Congress attended the meeting.

The agenda for the ACIEP meeting was not published, and State Department officials in attendance could not give WND permission under Chatham House rules to publish the agenda.

The meeting agenda included topics reviewing the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP, and the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Economic Council, or TEC.

The SPP, declared by the U.S., Canada and Mexico at a summit meeting in 2005, has 20 trilateral bureaucratic working groups that seek to “integrate and harmonize” administrative rules and regulations on a continental basis.

Several participants said the premise of the SPP is to create a North American business platform to benefit North America-based multi-national companies the way the European Union benefits its own.

Others noted the premise of the TEC is to create a convergence of administrative rules and regulations between Europe and North America, anticipating the creation of a “Transatlantic Economic Union” between the European Union and North America.

Participants pointed out that transatlantic trade is currently 40 percent of all world trade. They argue that trade and non-trade barriers need to be further reduced to maintain that market share as a framework is put in place to advance transatlantic economic integration.

Still, some participants argued that many corporations in North America already have moved beyond a North American focus to adopt a global perspective that transcends even the Transatlantic market.

“Supply chains and markets are everywhere,” one participant asserted. “What’s to stop global corporations from going after the cheapest labor available globally, wherever they can find it, provided the cost of transporting goods globally can be managed economically?”

Other participants argued regional alliances were still important, if only to put in place the institutional bases that ultimately would lead to global governance on uniform global administrative regulations favorable to multi-national corporations.

“North America should be a premiere platform to establish continental institutions,” a participant said. “That’s why we need to move the security perimeters to include the whole continent, especially as we open the borders between North American countries for expanding free trade.”

One presentation on the agenda identified four reasons why administrative rules and regulations need to be integrated by SPP in North America and by the Transatlantic Economic Council, bridging together European Union and North American markets:
Standardization – to keep prices low and productivity high;

Investment – for every $1 traded, $4 is invested; right now 75 percent of investment in the U.S. comes from the EU, and 52 percent of the investment in the EU comes from the U.S.;

Productivity Improvements – to lower production costs and stimulate trade; and

Open Borders – to facilitate the free movement of labor to markets where employment opportunities are available.

The discussion pointed out the SPP trilateral working groups and the Transatlantic Economic Council were being supported by top-level Cabinet officers and the heads of state in both the EU and in North America.

Progress in EU-U.S. regulatory integration was noted in financial market coordination, investment rule cohesion, trade security measures and efforts undertaken recently to preserve intellectual property rights.

Before the meeting began, concerns were raised informally by participants worried that the Ohio Democratic Party primary had prompted both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to talk of renegotiating NAFTA.

Participants at the State Department meeting pointed out U.S. political candidates could be expected to argue “protectionist themes opposed to global economic integration” as a tactic, without necessarily being committed to taking aggressive steps once in office.

“The political dialogue misses the point of economic reality,” one participant argued. “There is a J-curve correlation between when a currency like the U.S. dollar depreciates and when exports kick in to increase. We should accelerate the J-curve and our discussion about it, to help the local politics catch up with the international reality.”

Part of the discussion was devoted to concerns that national regulators in North America and Europe were too reluctant to abandon provincial regulatory advantages.

“Regulators by nature are advocates, and they are hard to move,” one participant grumbled. “What we need is more diplomats and negotiators to identify solutions, otherwise the bureaucrats will bog down the progress we need to see coming out of the SPP and TEC.”

“North America is already an integrated continental economy and a continental-wide business platform,” another said. “What we need now is more regulatory convergence. ‘Harmonized’ should mean that once approved, the same set of administrative regulations and procedures ought to be ready throughout NAFTA, SPP and the TEC.”

As WND previously reported, the Transatlantic Economic Council, or TEC, was created by President Bush at an April 30 summit meeting at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the current president of the European Council, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

WND also reported the Transatlantic Policy Network, a non-governmental organization headquartered in Washington and Brussels and advised by a bi-partisan congressional policy group chaired by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, has called for the creation of a Transatlantic Common Market between the U.S. and the European Union by 2015.

A complete membership list of the current 60-person Advisory Committee on International Policy is published on the State Department website.

ACIEP members include corporate officers from General Electric, Exxon Mobil, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Archer Daniels Midland, United Parcel Service, Citibank, Proctor & Gamble, Hunt Oil, CMS Energy, Boeing, 3M, Goldman Sachs and Cargill.

The most recent “Summary of Discussions” published on the Department of State website was for the Dec. 18 ACIEP meeting.

A published article on the State Department website includes photographs of the Dec. 18 ACIEP meeting, listing by name several participants who were photographed in attendance.

German Social Democrats endorse renewing military’s anti-terror mandate

Associated Press | Oct 27, 2007

HAMBURG, Germany: Germany’s center-left Social Democrats on Saturday endorsed the country’s continued participation in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom against terrorism, even as rising violence in Afghanistan fuels public skepticism.

Delegates at a conference of the party — which forms half of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition — approved a motion that also calls on the government to examine whether the operation could be put under a specific U.N. mandate.

German military deployments abroad require parliamentary approval, typically renewed on an annual basis.

The Operation Enduring Freedom mandate — last renewed in November 2006 — currently allows for Germany to deploy up to 1,800 troops, including 100 special forces soldiers. The elite KSK unit has served in Afghanistan under the mandate, though details of its operations are kept secret.

Some 250 regular troops are serving as part of Enduring Freedom, participating in naval patrols of shipping off the Horn of Africa.

Amid rising violence in Afghanistan and concern over civilian casualties, polls this year have indicated that there is mounting skepticism over military involvement in Afghanistan. The opposition Left party has appealed to pacifists with calls for the withdrawal of German troops.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told fellow Social Democrats that, if Germany withdrew, “we would leave people at the mercy of the Taliban again.”

Earlier this month, German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to continue the country’s involvement in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Germany has some 3,000 troops serving largely in Afghanistan’s relatively calm north, as well as six Tornado reconnaissance jets.

Parliament is expected to vote in November on Operation Enduring Freedom.

France to deploy Mirage fighters to Afghanistan


U.S. President George W. Bush with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Earth Times | Aug 31, 2007

Paris – The French government will deploy six Mirage jet- fighters to Kandahar in the south of the country from a base in Tadjikistan, the daily Le Figaro reported Friday. The move is regarded in France as a signal to NATO of French willingness to increase its commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The French Defence Ministry said the deployment of the three Mirage D 2000 and three Mirage F1 CR planes will be carried out in the coming weeks.

Ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire said the deployment is to be made for “operational” and “logistical” reasons. Being based in Kandahar, the French aircraft will be able to significantly increase their time patrolling the skies above combat zones.

The base at Kandahar is home to some 11,000 American, British, Canadian, Dutch and Australian soldiers as well as some 100 planes and drones.

. . .


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