IA-Forum presents its second installment of our Q&A roundtable on Germany wih Leon Hadar. Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute and the author of the forthcoming "Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillam) which will focus on U.S.-European tensions over the Middle East.
International Affairs Forum: Though disliked by many Germans (and Europeans) from leadership ranks to intelligentsia to the general public, the Bush administration represents a democratically elected government and a legitimate, if controversial, set of policies. Do you think that diverging opinions on foreign polcies between these old-time allies can be, or will be, overcome in the second term of the Bush administration?
Dr. Leon Hadar: There will be a diplomatic effort on both sides of the Atlantic to create the impression that the U.S. and the EU are overcoming the differences over Iraq, that they are cooperating on many issues, like Ukraine, and so on. But it seems to me that the United States under George W. Bush and the leading European governments (and publics) led by France and Germany are gradually being transformed from strategic allies into competitors, especially when it come to the Middle East. Europe regards the Middle East as its “strategic backyard” not unlike the way the U.S. deals with Central and Latin America and the policies of the Bush administration in the Middle East run contrary to the core national interests of the Europeans. Hence despite the “cosmetic” change sin the relationship, expect more tensions certainly over Iran, as well as Israel/Palestine and Iraq. We are living in a transition period: The EU doesn’t have yet the military and diplomatic power to challenge the U.S. while the U.S. has still the military and diplomatic resources to maintain its hegemonic position, especially in the Middle East. That reality creates the potential for more transatlantic tensions in the coming years.
IA-Forum: During the height of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, Timothy Garrison Ash, among many, has observed a tendency of politicians and colleagues of his to more readily embrace Vladimir Putin than George W. Bush. At the very least, there was some surprisingly hesitant condemnation of Russian meddling in the Ukrainian election that could be attributed to lingering bad sentiment about G.W. Bush and his Administration and policies. Do you think that such an stance is fair - and if so, what can be gathered from what may be inferred by some as an emotional, knee-jerk reaction along the lines of "whatever the Americans are for, we will consider being against."
Dr. Hadar: If I were a European pundit or official I would treat with much skepticism the current U.S. policies driven by an administration that has never hidden its disdain towards the Europeans. In fact, it made it a center piece of its policy and public diplomacy. It is only trying to court the Europeans now that it senses that it needs the Europeans to get them out of the mess in Iraq (that the Bushies have created). Frankly, I don’t believe that it was America’s business to get involved in the political problems of Ukraine during the elections there. I can understand why the Europeans who are affected more directly by what happens in Ukraine are more willing to understand the Russian interests in that country and deal with it in a diplomatic way.
IA-Forum: Where do you think that the relationship between the US and Germany will move to with the current administrations?
Dr. Hadar: There will be ups and downs depending on whose in charge, geo-strategic and geo-economic developments, etc. In general, the Germans are becoming a more “normal” nation-state and are placing greater important on their relationship with the EU than on the ties with Washington. That is a long term structural change that will become more obvious in the coming years. It doesn’t mean that the two countries will become rivals or enemies. But the post-World War II era of German-American relationship is over. Period.
IA-Forum: Germany still has hopes for a seat in the UN security council. In Europe, Italy is most outspokenly against this, but surely, the United States is no more likely to help this ambition. Has Germany any chance in the foreseeable future to clinch a more important position within the UN? What must it do if it is to have any chance for a seat in the security council?
Dr. Hadar: I doubt that you are going to see any major reforms in the UN Security Council. That’s a lot of talk. But inertia is always more powerful. Perhaps there will be some effort to create a “second tier” of Security Council members which will include representative of the EU. Overall, I think that if Germany and Japan want to become a leading member of the new Concert of Power that would have to become more activist and assertive in the international security arena. I don’t see that happening any time soon. Notice that all the permanent members of the SC are nuclear military powers.
IA-Forum: Bush and Schroder are due to meet in Mainz on Feb. 23. U.S. officials have said Bush's trip to Europe is designed to mend relations that were damaged in the run-up to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, opposition to which was the key plank of Schroeder's re-election campaign in 2002. Other issues include the fight against terrorism, Afghanistan, Iran, the Palestinian situation, and trade expansion with China. What can realistically be gained from this summit?
Dr. Hadar: A lot photo ops sending a message that we have made up and things look great, etc. etc. Some cooperation on some issues, like terrorism, European economic aid to the PA, and so on.
IA-Forum: The German economic reforms have finally taken some shape - but there is concern that while it is now harder to be jobless, it is by no means easier to get a job. Is the commodities- and job market in a position to deal with the necessary recovery and reduction of unemployment?
Dr. Hadar: The Germans would need to go through a painful process of structural economic reforms. This is clear to everyone involved.
IA-Forum: What must be done in order to turn the German economy around? How can domestic consumer demand be stimulated without threatening to miss the Growth and Stability Pact for a fourth year?
Dr. Hadar: Well, it will have be done even if it threatens the pact for a few more years. I don’t believe that the Germans are going to commit an economic suicide for the sake of an EU accord. Is the EU going to expel them?
IA-Forum: Do you believe Schroder’s economic Agenda 2010 will achieve what the German economy needs?
Dr. Hadar: I don’t think so. These are a few small steps on a very long road.
IA-Forum: With Harz IV, the most controversial part of the economic reform has been implemented. While the problem about this reform has been large, the SPD seems to have weathered the initial outrage reasonably well and can hope to climb back on top in the polls. Does this also mean that the SPD's ambitions for economic reform have come to a halt until at least after the next elections in 2006; so as not to risk another drop in popularity? And, if so, does this mean that precious time for implementing further necessary reforms is being lost?
Dr. Hadar: The political and economic cycles are not always synchronized. It’s quite possible that the German electorate is getting tired with the SPD, but I don’t think that the CDU are presenting a very attractive alternative. I’m certainly very skeptical that with their more nationalist-cultural approach they would be able to reform the immigration rules that the German economy needs.
IA-Forum: There is a good deal of infighting between the CDU and CSU. This clearly has not helped in holding onto the strong lead the conservatives enjoyed just months ago. There are also voices blaming lack of leadership to the be cause. When do you see the party heading in 2006?
Dr. Hadar: The only good thing I can say about the German conservatives that they are more exciting than the British conservatives.
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