By Carol Gee
Leadership has significantly changed hands this year in Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel began Germany's year of European Union leadership at the beginning of the year. On May 6 France elected a new leader, Nicholas Sarkozy. And Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as the United Kingdom's Prime Minister in July just as "doctor-terrorists" attacked the UK. The new "Big Three" leaders of traditional U.S. allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- deserve more of our attention. How willing are they to be strong allies?
UK remains "willing." In Iraq 168 British soldiers have died since 2003. Just under 50,000 British troops were in Iraq at its highest point of involvement. The number of U.S. troops there is at an all time high of 162,000. U.S. casualties today stand at 3736 killed in Iraq. And PM Brown remains committed to the presence of soldiers from the United Kingdom in Iraq and Afghanistan. The BBC (8/28/07) reports that:
"PM rules out Iraq exit timetable." Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out setting a timetable for withdrawing UK troops from Iraq, saying it would undermine their "important job" there.
Writing to Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, he said the military still had "clear obligations to discharge".
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the UK forces' training and mentoring role was what was needed on the ground.
France willing - to do what? In France new President Sarkozy enjoys a 60+ approval rating, even though he is "losing some of his shine," according to Germany's Deutsche Welle. French president Sarkozy took his personal vacation in New England, had lunch with our current president (OCP), and made recent headlines with his statement about bombing Iran. To quote Victor Davis Hanson at National Review (8/31/07):
. . . French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He suddenly, in the eleventh hour of the crisis, reminds the world that bombing Iran is still very possible (and he doesn't specify by whom):
An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.
Note especially the French president’s reference to “us” and the logic of his syllogism: Iran can’t and won’t have the bomb; one catastrophic remedy is bombing; therefore someone must increase sanctions or someone will bomb Iran, as the least bad of two awful alternatives. He can say all that — without the global hatred that George Bush would incur had he said half that.
German has been willing to be involved in Afghanistan but not Iraq. In May, 3000 German troops were in the northern area and three died there in a suicide bomb attack. A German taken hostage by the Taliban recently surfaced in a video. Recently Chancellor Angela Merkel was willing to speak out about human rights in China. From Germany, the Financial Times (8/27/07) reports that:
Angela Merkel will use a visit to China starting today to press Beijing to take on greater international responsibility concerning intellectual property rights, climate change and human rights in Africa.
. . . Her tough comments were seen yesterday as part of an effort by Ms Merkel to use a string of foreign trips in the next two months to reinforce her image as an international power broker, following her foreign policy successes in the European Union and G8 industrial nations grouping in the first half of 2007. Her week-long Asia trip includes her first visit as chancellor to Japan, where she will deliver a keynote speech in Kyoto on the urgency of tackling climate change.
In September she will represent Germany at the United Nations General Assembly meeting - a job traditionally performed by the foreign minister - and in October she will make a rare visit by a German chancellor to Africa, visiting Ethiopia, South Africa and Liberia.
The year 2007 is a new era in US/EU relations because new people are in place as leaders, not because OCP has changed. He is still a go-it-alone kind of guy. How to assess the partnerships? The alliance between the U.S. and Germany has been relatively strong. Angela Merkel has been a strong European Union President. The relationship between the U.S. and France may become more positive now that President Chirac is no longer in the picture, though that is still to be seen. And UK PM Gordon Brown has been surprisingly firm in his support for keeping at least a few troops in Iraq.
(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)
Labels: Afghanistan, Angela Merkel, diplomacy, Europe, France, Germany, Gordon Brown, Iraq, Nicolas Sarkozy, U.S. foreign policy, United Kingdom