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Relations Strained Between Germany and U.S. - 2002-09-26

The Bush administration’s policy on Iraq may have played a key role in the German parliamentary elections Sunday. VOA-TV’s Melinda Smith has more on the outcome in Germany, and in the relationship between German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. president George W. Bush.

Shortly after the September 11th attacks in the United States…German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pledged unlimited solidarity with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. But one year later, Mr. Schroeder’s opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq helped elect his coalition of social democrats and green party members to parliament by the slimmest of majorities, just over one per cent of votes cast. RTL Correspondent Pit Kleim.

“Schroeder turned the tide in his campaign, by playing the Iraq card and by playing a very outspoken stand against George Bush.”

The chancellor’s justice minister Herta Daeubler-gmelin also reportedly said attacking Iraq was President Bush’s way of distracting Americans from problems in their own economy…a tactic used by Adolph Hitler.

While she denied comparing president bush to Hitler, she still lost a job in Schroeder’s new cabinet, and she and Mr. Schroeder incurred the ire of U.S. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a visit to Poland.

”I have no comment on the German elections outcome, but I would have to say the way that it was conducted was notably unhelpful and as the White House indicated has had the effect of poisoning the relationship.”

The day after the election chancellor Schroeder told reporters he did not believe German-American relations would be endangered by his policy on Iraq. However, some U.S. and European analysts say Mr. Schroeder’s campaign strategy has not only damaged his relationship with the U.S. president, but it has seriously affected decades of close ties between the two countries.

Christoph Bertram, the director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, says while some in the Bush administration will take this shift personally, others will adopt a more realistic attitude.

“The other section of the government, the professionals, who have to deal with Germany and Europe on a regular basis and public opinion will understand after a while when it is clear that German foreign policy has not changed, that its commitment to the alliance, to NATO, to Europe, has not been affected, will actually come back to the normal relationship.”

Meanwhil, as analysts on both sides of the Atlantic wait to see whether the breach can be mended, President Bush declined to place the traditional call of congratulations to the winner of Sunday’s parliamentary elections.