So Colin Powell and the German chancellor tried to look forward, not to explain, and not to complain. And what does Geroge W. do? He behaves like a spoilt kid trying to get even by chatting for fifteen minutes with Roland Koch, the premier of the German state of Hessen, a leading figure of Germany’s main opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
No one would have believed the White House affirmations that the meeting happened “accidentally”, that Bush “just walked in” after a scheduled talk between Dick Cheney and Koch anyway, but in an interview with ZDF television’s afternoon programme “Mittagsmagazin”, Koch was pretty much unable not to smirk when the interviewer suggested that a German state premier hardly gets fifteen “accidental” minutes with the US president. GWB’s childish behavior is good news only for those in the US administration who want to strain transatlantic relations even further, and for Koch, who is said to have ambitions to become the next chancellor-candidate for the CDU instead of the current leader Angela Merkel. It is bad news for everyone else.
Was it inability, or willful wreckage? While some people might be tempted to give Bush the credit of inability, the Involvement of Cheney makes it a lot harder to come to this conclusion. So the chancellor is probably quite right to take this as a serious personal attack that he is unlikely to forgive soon. And he, as the German population, will certainly remember that the CDU has chosen to become a pawn in a game originating in the White House.
But Schröder is not the only who has been embarrassed by the latest Bushism. For Colin Powell and the US state department the Bush-Koch meeting conveys an even more serious message – it confirms again and very visibly to everyone abroad who is actually in control of US foreign policy – that Foggy Bottom doesn’t matter and that Powell’s role has apparently been reduced to that of chief messenger. I wonder how long he will go along.
The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow wrote in October last year with respect to the transatlantic rift that
“… the [US] administration wants doormats, not allies.”
Today, Bush powerfully confirmed this. And while Schröder has repeatedly stated in the last few weeks that Germany does not wish to be forced to have to choose between its most important allies, the US and France, it looks like the American President is indeed waiting for an answer.
I highly doubt he will like it.