German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder meets U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington tomorrow. It is the first time the two leaders have met. German commentators expect a plain-speaking exchange of views on a number of political, military, and economic differences between the Bush administration and Europe.
Munich, 28 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A spokesman for German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says he will not hesitate to raise difficult issues when he meets tomorrow with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington.
The spokesman (unnamed) says "addressing differences is a necessary condition for maintaining credibility among allies." He adds that "failure to discuss differences openly can lead to distrust and weaken the alliance."
In the past few days Germany has expressed indirect criticism of what it considers a lack of consultation between Washington and its European allies on major issues.
One issue was the recent decision by the U.S. government to expel around 50 Russian diplomats suspected of espionage. One of Schroeder's most senior assistants told reporters he learned about the expulsions only from the newspapers -- not from Washington.
Diplomats in Berlin say there is concern in some European capitals that Bush and his administration are taking a more confrontational attitude toward Moscow.
Schroeder said recently that he believes Europe and the U.S. should seek agreement on how to treat Russia. Schroeder said he personally considers that Russia should be integrated into Europe's democratic and economic structures.
"We need trans-Atlantic agreement as regards our attitude toward Russia. Germany has long advocated the close international integration of Russia into democratic structures and security policy and economic cooperation in Europe. Russia plays a vital role in maintaining lasting security and stability in Europe. On my recent private visit to Moscow, I saw that President Putin is in principle open to an intensification of relations with the European Union and the Atlantic alliance. Dialogue with the Russian leadership on these topics lies in our common interest."
An official at the German foreign office (who did not wish to be identified) said the Washington talks are also likely to turn up differences over environmental policies. He said Germany has told Washington it is concerned by President Bush's decision not to seek reductions in carbon dioxide emissions at U.S. power plants. Bush had promised during his election campaign to seek reductions but reversed his position earlier this month.
Carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are widely believed to contribute to the Earth's rising temperatures.
Early last week Schroeder asked Bush in a letter to stick to the guidelines on greenhouse emissions agreed to in Kyoto in 1997. He said the so-called Kyoto Protocol is the foundation of effective climate protection and any divergence from it would set back measures for environmental protection.
The goal of the Kyoto Protocol is a substantial reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2012. The Kyoto conference says that emissions should be cut back to five percent below 1990 levels. However, a conference designed to work out the details of the protocols collapsed last winter over disagreements between Europe and the U.S. on how best to meet that target.
The German spokesman said other areas of disagreement include the EU's plan to create a 60,000-man rapid reaction military force. There is suspicion in the U.S. that the planned EU force could eventually supplant NATO, not complement it.
Schroeder himself told reporters that Germany and Europe would press ahead with the decision to make the force effective by 2003. He said it would strengthen NATO, not weaken it.
"Europe must have the capacity to react independently to crisis situations. We Europeans want to be -- and indeed by 2003 will be -- in a position to implement humanitarian, peacekeeping, and peacemaking measures. Germany is making both a political and a military contribution to this initiative. A Europe which is capable of acting on security policy issues will, by strengthening the European pillar of the alliance, strengthen the alliance as a whole."
Despite these differences, the spokesman for the German foreign office said Berlin was a firm believer in close trans-Atlantic cooperation. He said that on many international issues a joint U.S.-European approach was necessary.
The spokesman said the government did not believe the Bush administration was trying to force Germany and other European countries into following any new hard-line policy. He said specifically that Berlin did not accept the headline "Bully Bush" (in English) which appeared over a critical article in last weekend's edition of the Munich newspaper "Sueddeutsche Zeitung."
Schroeder says, however, the United States must recognize that Europe today is a different place than what it was in 1949 when NATO was founded under U.S. protection.