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Why Merkel Is Getting Red-Carpet Welcome in Washington (6/6)     Print Email

The Obama administration is extending an exceptionally warm reception to Chancellor Angela Merkel even though she recently opposed Washington on Libya and on so many economic issues. Why?

One possible answer, coming from Transatlantic Academy director Stephen F. Szabo, is a complex U.S. calculation that a reluctant Merkel and a reluctant Germany must eventually face up to Berlin's role as the only candidate to fill a gaping power vacuum and lack of leadership in Europe.

"Washington does not see Germany or its Chancellor filling the vacuum being left by the EU and the United States, but sees no other realistic alternative. It calculates that Berlin will soon realize that the United States will not play the leadership role in Europe it has over the past seven decades and will have no choice but to lead or flounder, so Washington hopes that by treating Angela Merkel as Europe’s leader she will start to act like it."

Szabo's Germano-centric interpretation of U.S. policy in Europe is open to many objections and counter-arguments -- notably the axiom that Germany has always needed France as its ally to play a leading role in Europe. That seems to remain true today, with Paris siding with Berlin in seeking better eurozone governance as the quid pro quo for more financial aide to debt-burdened economies. And it is France and Britain that have led the NATO-run intervention in Libya. Of course, Mr. Szabo's argument focuses on the long run, not the immediate present. But the long run may be too remote for Merkel to matter or indeed for Germany to bring to bear its economic and its latent military power. So the alleged U.S. hope may be so remote that it is misplaced.

That may be. But Szabo argues that Washington and Berlin and the rest of the West have no alternative but to try convincing Berlin to assume more burdens and more leadership.

His article is available on-line:

"Why Merkel Matters?" by Stephen F. Szabo