And here I thought that since the era of “cowboy diplomacy” was over, Obama and Co. were going to razzle dazzle European leaders and “heal” strained relationships. That’s what he, his supporters, and the mainstream media were bragging about last year. Apparently (and unsurprisingly), they were wrong:
DRESDEN, Germany — After mending fences with the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, President Obama might want to keep his diplomatic tools handy for his stopover here, to repair his increasingly strained relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A rift has quietly opened up between Germany and the United States, marked by official statements of harmony and private grumbling. It is not an outright crisis in relations, but there are underlying tensions and disagreements on matters ranging from the global economic crisis to the future of inmates held at Guantánamo Bay.
On a more basic level, there is a sense that the Obama administration is ignoring the needs and counsel of longtime allies. Divided Germany was once at the center not only of the cold war, but of American foreign policy as well, which is no longer the case. Yet the United States can ill afford to alienate Europe’s largest economy and its most important intermediary in the strained relationship with Russia. “They’re not angry, they’re not anti-Obama or anti-American,” said John C. Kornblum, a former United States ambassador to Germany and now a business adviser in Berlin. “But they’re confused by the wave of criticism which has been sent at them by the administration and people close to the administration.
“It’s not that they don’t like him,” he said. “They just feel like things aren’t working, like the levers of government are not being engaged to make issues run smoothly.”
In the early stages of the Obama presidency, officials in the Merkel government were dismayed by the scarcity of staff in midlevel positions at the Treasury Department. And Germans remain surprised that an ambassador to their country has not been named more than four months after Mr. Obama’s inauguration. There is a sense that, with his focus split between domestic concerns and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new president is taking his staunchest European allies for granted.
“There is definitely this disappointment in Europe, complaining that there’s nobody home,” said Stephen Flanagan, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Hey Euros – welcome to our world.
In all seriousness, can you imagine the level of outrage this “rift” would receive if it was Bush and a European leader? Well, we don’t have to imagine – we all remember well how often Bush was criticized for allegedly “destroying” longstanding relationships with European allies due to his and his administration’s “lack of diplomatic finesse.”
Not only do we have “rifts” we’re trying to heal with Germany, but there’s another one emerging between our celebrity President and France’s celebrity president:
The Obamas turn up in Paris this evening, but have declined a dinner invitation from the couple next door: the Sarkozys.
President Obama’s reluctance to spend more than minimum time with the French leader on his visit for the D-Day anniversary has come as an embarrassment to the Elysée Palace.
America’s First Family will not be dining with President Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, even though they are staying at the residence of the US Ambassador, yards from the Elysée apartments where the Sarkozys spend their weekends.
Mr Sarkozy’s staff were trying yesterday to arrange another private moment between the couples. Mr Obama is due to fly back to Washington tomorrow night or on Sunday.
Mr Sarkozy has been pilloried in France for his failure to invite the Queen to the events. “The palace is fearing a snub,” Le Parisien newspaper said yesterday after the news emerged of the Obamas’ plans to keep themselves to themselves.
The French were also piqued after the White House said that it was working on an invitation to Normandy for the Royal Family. Face was saved when the Prince of Wales agreed to attend with Gordon Brown. “Sarkozy has pulled off a double hit: insulting Queen Elizabeth and exasperating Obama,” the weekly Canard Enchaîné said on Wednesday.
Mr Obama’s irritation with his French counterpart began when Mr Sarkozy tried to grab the limelight at the G20 summit in London in April and talked condescendingly of the US President in private. Mr Sarkozy told colleagues that he found Mr Obama to be inexperienced and unbriefed, especially on climate change. Mr Obama hit back last month, telling a visiting French minister: “Please tell Nicolas that I shall do my homework, and in two months I’ll know all about climate change.”
The leaders will have lunch in Caen tomorrow while their wives meet near by. They will then all attend the ceremony at the US cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, above Omaha Beach.
Look, Sarko’s proven himself to be nothing more than an attention hog, and has not been the great ally I and many other conservatives had hoped he’d be after his election a couple of years ago. He’s been a jerk to President Obama, from what it sounds like, and as a result Obama’s sending subtle indirect jabs at Sarko – communicating without saying a word. So I really don’t blame the Obamas for the dinner snub. But at the same time, I also remember what a jerk Chirac was regarding Bush and how at the time the left here in this country resented the fact that our relations with France were, at best, “on ice.” Bush was ridiculed and vilified for his desire to ignore and overlook the pompous Jacques Chirac on the world stage. Yet Obama snubs Sarko, and in turn he’s praised in the French press and not criticized here at all from the same left who went out of their way to critique every word and every gesture from Bush and his administration when it came to dealing with our allies.
In any event, our relationships with Germany and France are not all wine and roses and perfect harmony as so many implied/predicted they’d be once Obama took the oath of office. If anything, at least with Germany, he and his administration have damaged one of the few good relationships Bush had with a European leader (Merkel) and is on shaky ground with another. All in a matter of just a few short months after his inauguration.
Nice work, Mr. President. Too bad that reset button is out for repairs, eh? Or, hey – maybe you can blame all this on Bush?
Flashback on the foreign policy “experts”:
- 9/22/08 – Joe Biden’s Tuzla moment
- 8/12/08 – Who needs 300+ foreign policy advisors when you’ve got George Clooney?
- 4/8/08 – Obama asserts that his VP selection would be “somebody who knows about a bunch of stuff that I’m not as expert on”
- 3/24/08 – Clinton campaign continues to dig deeper hole on alleged Tuzla sniperfire incident
- 11/21/07 – Senator Obama: Foreign relations “experience” based on 4 years spent overseas when he was a child