Talking about the Weather?

On November 3, 2009 Angela Merkel appeared before both houses of Congress something a German Chancellor had not done since 1957 when Konrad Adenauer performed.

In the first half of December 2009 the German ambassador to the US, Klaus Scharioth performed the yearly poll on the US-German relationship. Numbers were up, but not as high as before the Iraq war. 48% of participants had a "good" or "excellent" general impression of Germany. It was particularly good among College students. During the 2003 war with Iraq the corresponding number was 27%. In 2001 the number was 65%.

Only 12% of participants thought Germany had an impact on the American political landscape. Which places Germany as influence on fifth place behind the UK, Canada, China and Japan. This is in line with Eurobarometer data where some 80% of Germans don't want to share a foreign policy with the US.

During her talk Angela Merkel stressed climate change as something worth future collaboration. It was probably realistic but President Obama probably had the sight more on collaboration with Iran and in Afghanistan. That's right, let's talk about the weather. There is still hope but Afghanistan, for example, looks like something the Germans are going to complain on having been engaged in.

So, what Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac did in 2003 was to make Europe focus on a future with Russia. Natural gas from Russia rather than from the Middle East, although Europe at the time had a higher percent of oil coming from the Middle East than did the US. Both center-right Europe and Social democratic Europe said no to the US. As the numbers indicate, the wound might never heal.

After having gotten tired of talking about the same thing with 27 European heads of state, President Obama turned down the EU-US summit this spring. The EAS is currently not looking as something that on short term is going to improve the relation. The French, the Germans and the English are all a little bit sour on Lady Ashton, EU's first High Representative for foreign affairs. That leaves conventional bilateral relationships instead.

Without the EU, what is then our relationship with the US? Since George W. Bush, we are also talking about the weather. The former US ambassador to Sweden focused on green technology as the glue to forge the two nations together--"One Big Thing" he called it. Sweden is also collaborating with NATO in Afghanistan. The current US Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun recently launched the Swedish American Green Alliance together with Maud Olofsson.

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