Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Merkel Hopes to Restore US Relationship

Angela Merkel is poised to become the first female chancellor in German history following a series of compromise negotiations with her opponents. (Washington Post: Merkel To Succeed Germany's Schroeder). Despite winning a narrow victory in recent elections, thus weakening her claim to power, Merkel's confirmation as Chancellor spells good news to the strained US / German relationship.

Under two terms with Gerhard Schroeder at the helm, relations between the US and Germany were strained to the breaking point. The adversarial role taken by Germany in the UN prompted the New York Post to dub them, along with France and Russia, as the Axis of Weasel. Merkel pledges to strengthen the relationship between Germany and the US, once Germany's staunchest post World War II ally.

Merkel also faces tough economic challenges at home. Economic growth has waned over recent years and the unemployment rate is at a post-depression high of 12%. Reversing the effects of the Schroeder years will be problematic, however. Because of the narrow margin of victory in the recent election, Merkel's conservative party will actually share power with her liberal rivals in a coalition government. When asked about the effectiveness of ruling by coalition, Merkel responded, "We can only wait and see. The grand coalition, well, this is the response to the will of the electorate and I think we have to respect that."

Time will tell how much influence Merkel will have in restoring the US / German relationship. Tremendous damage was done to that relationship by Germany's adversarial approach to US policies in the UN. Polls taken in Germany during the recent election, however, showed a populace grown weary of Schroeder's anti-American stance. Her pro-US policies were instrumental in her election, which can only bode well for our relationship. What remains to be seen is if she will wield enough power to put her policies into practice. Time will tell.


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