TCS Daily

Germany Endorses Kerry!

By Joseph Tom Goeller - October 14, 2004 12:00 AM

BERLIN -- German Defense Minister Peter Struck announced a major shift in his country's Iraq policy this week. "If conditions change in Iraq," he told the Financial Times newspaper, Germany might consider deploying troops there. Political analysts here and abroad agree that this change of mind constitutes Berlin's de facto endorsement of John Kerry, the Democratic US presidential candidate.

Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, has been a leading opponent of the US-led Iraq war and repeatedly denied to commit German troops to aid the occupying coalition. He is also well-known for being a harsh critic of President George W. Bush in general. Kerry argues that he would be able to draw support from countries that opposed the war.

In his interview with the FT, Struck referred to Kerry's proposal that he would convene an international conference on Iraq including countries that opposed the war if he were to win the presidential election. The defense minister praised Kerry for having made "a very sensible proposal". He also stressed that "Germany has taken on responsibilities in Iraq, including financial ones; this would naturally justify our involvement in such a conference." Germany is providing financial assistance to Iraq and is training Iraqi troops and police officers in the United Arab Emirates. In addition it recently announced the shipment of 20 armored vehicles to the Iraqi military, as part of Berlin's involvement in reconstruction efforts there, led by NATO.

Even though Struck ruled out the deployment of German troops "at present", most likely because Berlin does not want to back President Bush, he added: "In general, however, there is no one who can predict developments in Iraq in such a way that he could make such a binding statement about the future."

There are two major reasons why the German government is preparing public opinion for a shift in its Iraq policy: First, there are already critical voices, expressed in the German media, that Berlin should not look away any longer while things are getting messier in Iraq. The daily Der Tagesspiegel, to cite one example, published the following on September 19: "Because looking away, as it is well known, doesn't help, the Germans are also asked to play their role in the world. In the face of the great crisis of the world the German foreign policy cannot hide its helplessness, except of its steadfastness with which the German government defends its efforts for rebuilding Afghanistan but refuses to deploy troops to Iraq."

Second, if a democratically elected Iraqi government were to ask the UN for support, Germany would have to respond. This is what Struck means by "if conditions change in Iraq". Germany is keen to get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. "Germany is ready to take on the responsibilities associated with a permanent seat," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer at the General Assembly in New York last month.

For years, Germany has quietly emerged as a rising power on the world stage. Almost 10,000 German peacekeeping troops are currently deployed in South East Europe, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Africa. This is the second largest peace keeping troop deployment abroad, behind the US. Fourteen years after reunification, Germans are not hesitant anymore to get involved in international crisis and help to secure peace in far away regions. But after the devastating experiences of World War II, Germans as a nation are anxious to act in accordance with international law. This is why they are looking at the United Nations in particular.

However, Germany is driven by the intention to regain international acceptance as a world player. Here lies the tipping point for getting German troops to Iraq. If a new Iraqi government would appeal to the UN for peace keeping troops Chancellor Schröder would have to rethink his current position on his objection to a German deployment to Iraq and sell this change of attitude successfully to the German public. The question is whether Berlin is more interested in the outcome of elections in Iraq in January or in the US in November.


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