Feature

Germany’s Merkel Makes Up with Bush

Looking to maintain friendships in Europe as many of the continent’s leaders are leaving office, President Bush meets again with Chancellor Merkel to help U.S.–German relations.

The U.S. and Germany are pals again, said Martin Kilian in Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger. The relationship had been 'œturbulent' for several years, 'œpoisoned' by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's shrill opposition to the Iraq war. But last week's 'œthoroughly successful' state visit by the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, signaled a fresh start. After an 'œuncommonly long,' three-hour tête-à-tête, President George W. Bush pronounced the new German leader 'œsmart and capable' and said their encounter was 'œunbelievably positive.' That's not to say that Merkel was simply sucking up. She did criticize Bush for continuing to warehouse terror detainees in the lawless enclave of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But coming from a woman who, nearly alone among her compatriots, supported the Iraq war, such criticism was tolerated as a respectable difference of opinion. 'œAt the White House, Berlin is once again back in good favor.'

It could hardly have gone otherwise, said Knut Pries in the Frankfurt Frankfurter Rundschau. To botch the meeting, Merkel would have had to 'œdump freshly brewed coffee all over the president's shirt while shrieking 'Revenge for Guantánamo!'' The U.S. administration was 'œdetermined' to embrace Merkel—and so was the entire Washington establishment. A reception for her at the German Embassy was the hottest ticket in town, attracting the likes of Alan Greenspan and Colin Powell. Only a broken shoulder kept Henry Kissinger, Merkel's 'œregularly consulted advisor' on U.S. affairs, away. They all believe in Merkel as the 'œmagical medicine woman who could heal the sick U.S.-German relationship.'

That's because the U.S. really needs Germany now, said Gerd Kolbe in Switzerland's Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The other strong European countries all have lame-duck leaders. The terms of office for Tony Blair in Britain, Jacques Chirac in France, and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy are all nearing their ends. No wonder Bush was so 'œpatient' in listening to Merkel's Gitmo complaints and so ready to agree to her request for regular contact: He wants a new friend on the old continent.

Stefan Kornelius

Süddeutsche Zeitung

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