As longtime allies, the United States and Germany have had a history of productive cooperation and mutual interest, but the new Bush administration should avoid taking Germany for granted in the coming years, suggests a panel of experts on U.S.-German relations. This is especially true for such issues as NATO expansion, the European Rapid Reaction Force and missile defense.
"This is a new Germany," said Jackson Janes, executive director of American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), The Johns Hopkins University. "This is a Germany with a new head on its shoulders. And we've got to pay attention. ... It's important to realize that you can't take this country for granted."
Janes was part of a group of experts convened by AICGS that met to discuss critical issues facing the United States and Germany as the Bush administration takes over in Washington. AICGS today released a 20-page report on their findings at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., as part of the Press Club's "Newsmaker" series. To view the report, follow the link below.
Janes was joined at the National Press Club by Steven Muller, President Emeritus of The Johns Hopkins University and chair of the committee of experts and by others on the panel, including: Robert Hunter, former NATO ambassador; Helmut Sonnenfeldt, of the Brookings Institution; and Ronald Asmus of the Council on Foreign Affairs.
The experts noted that Germany's influence and role in Europe is vital. With 82 million people and a prosperous economy, Germany is at the heart of the European Union. Its vision for the Europe of this century will be extremely important.
"As Germany goes, so goes Europe," said Janes. "And therefore you've got to pay close attention, because we have a lot of stakes there."
Some of the stickier questions have to do with the expansion of NATO, missile defense and a 60,000-troop European Rapid Reaction Force, which is scheduled to come into being in 2003.
The emergence of an European army raises a number of critical issues, such as how that armed force will work with NATO forces. Will it be a separate, independent force as France advocates? Or will it work with NATO forces? Will the United States help pay for it? And will Germany have to increase its own military spending to meet such commitments?
Meanwhile, if the United States moves forward with a missile defense system, the Bush administration should be aware of reaction in Germany, where such a system is perceived as unnecessary and a violation of existing arms control agreements. Germany, being geographically much closer to Russia, is also sensitive to how the Russian government might react to United States policy.
The U.S. Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty combined with plans for an aggressive missile defense program sends alarms to our German allies, the experts said in this report.
Further expansion of NATO could also cause problems between the United States and Germany, especially if such expansion causes fears in Moscow about being encircled or threatened.
"While Germany and the U.S. worked closely on the first round of NATO enlargement, it is as yet unclear whether German interests will be as much engaged in the second," the report states. The United States must strike a balance between German's sensitivity to admitting countries too near Russia versus maintaining a true open door policy for NATO membership, it says.
Other strategic areas of concern are the Balkans, where the German military plays a role in peacekeeping, and Turkey, a NATO member which seeks to become a member of the European Union but whose human rights record is questioned by Germany and other European countries.
Likewise, the United States and Germany continue to face areas of dispute on environmental issues and over such things as capital punishment and child custody decisions by German authorities.
The report states: "The fact that Germany has taken the United States to the International Human Rights Court over the case of two Germans executed in Arizona underlines not only a fundamental disagreement over capital punishment, but also Germany's willingness to take the U.S. to task on living up to its international treaty responsibilities.
"Similarly, the United States has been critical of Germany's treatment of the followers of Scientology and its disposition of child custody cases."
Both countries face a host of similar issues they must confront, and at a time when memories of past cooperation may not matter.
"The ability of both sides of the Atlantic successfully to manage this new agenda depends on the centrality of a close and effective U.S.-German partnership," the report states. "A partnership that can and must serve as the engine that helps drive and guide this transformation of European-American relations."
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