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BUSH-MERKEL: A MEETING, IF NOT YET OF MINDS

Author: Michael Moran
January 17, 2006

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It seems a long time since talks between a U.S. president and a German chancellor could produce anything approaching a meeting of the minds. That may not happen yet, but experts believe there is promise (Reuters) in Angela Merkel’s meeting with President Bush (AP). As German specialist William Drozdiak tells cfr.org’s Bernard Gwertzman, Merkel is eager “to get things off to a good start.”

“Good” has not been the word used since the Iraq war to characterize what was once a very close relationship. Yet gone is the personal animosity that poisoned ties between Bush and Merkel’s Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, notes Karsten D. Voigt, Germany’s front man for U.S. relations in the foreign ministry, in an interview with Deutsche Welle. In some sense, there is geopolitical common ground, too. Russia’s recent strong-arm tactics with Ukraine over natural gas supplies worried Moscow’s European customers, as this CFR Background Q&A notes, and Germany is more vulnerable than most. For all this, argue Heritage analysts Nile Gardiner and John Hulsman, “Merkel does not represent a fundamental transformation of the U.S.-German relationship.” A good start would be amazing progress.

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