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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Can German-US relations recover?
George Bush and Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin
Can they get back to happier times?

Fresh from his re-election, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder flies to London on Tuesday to meet Tony Blair. As he does so, there are voices urging him to begin mending relations with the US. But how much can he do?

The core of the bad feeling lies in two campaign events:

  • Mr Schroeder's rejection of any US-led attack on Iraq, calling it a "military adventure".
  • Alleged comments by his justice minister saying President Bush was using Iraq to detract from political problems at home - a tactic, she added, also used by Adolf Hitler.


I think you'll see a very changed policy towards Schroeder

US Republican Peter King
The resignation of the minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, and a personal letter from Mr Schroeder to Mr Bush have failed to calm troubled waters.

The hurt on the US side is keenly felt. US Republican congressman Peter King says the damage will last: "In view of all the United States has done for Germany over the years, I think you'll see a very changed policy towards Schroeder."

What can Schroeder offer?

At present however, Mr Schroeder may not be able - or even willing - to offer much more in public.

Gerhard Schroeder at election rally in Hanover
Schroeder talked tough during election campaign
On Monday, he seemed unfazed by the row. Such differences of opinion were normal between friends, he said. "It will resolve itself because the relationship is intact, and I will play my part."

Pollsters are agreed that his anti-war stance was a major factor in winning him the election.

It is also a central plank of the policies of his coalition partner, the Greens, whose improved showing saved Mr Schroeder from defeat.

No change expected

To reverse this stance seems politically unthinkable.

Greens' secretary-general Reinhard Buetikofer told the BBC: "I'm quite convinced that the policy... is not going to change after the election. I mean, that was the purpose of all of it - to make clear to the German people which policy these two parties would be standing for."

Joschka Fischer
Fischer could mend fences
There is speculation however that there is room for movement.

Some commentators say Mr Schroeder could eventually back military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein fails to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors and there is a UN resolution authorising force.

He could also help to relieve the operational pressure on the US and UK military by increasing the German contingent in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

The Fischer factor

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer may also play a large part. He is believed to be well regarded in Washington, and has said Germany will never forget the part America played in defeating the Nazis and in helping with German reunification in 1990.


The iconic American figure of the lonesome cowboy enforcing the law on his own holds no attraction for many Germans

But, while this indebtedness is felt by many Germans, there is also a current of scepticism towards America.

One of the lessons the German political class drew from the liberation in 1945 was that Germany should be embedded in international structures to prevent the country "going it alone" again.

This fervent belief in multilateralism is sorely tested by what some see as US unwillingness to work within such structures itself.

The iconic American figure of the lonesome cowboy enforcing the law on his own holds little appeal in Germany.

Gerhard Schroeder

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