Dmitry Litvinovich: Schroeder wants to be a new Bismarck

In Germany, all signs of a cabinet crisis are obvious. Chancellor Schroeder proposed to hold a voting of confidence of his government. This is already the third such case during the entire post-war history of Germany. The two first cases were connected with the well-known events in Yogoslavia and in Kosovo, due to which Germany lost its post-war virginity. Later, appeared Makedonia, where Germans lead NATO sub-units. And now, the German parliament is expected to agree (as it is necessary by the constitution) with the federal cabinet’s decision about the Bundeswehr’s participation in US anti-terrorist operations. It is known beforehand that most of the deputies of both the coalition and of the opposition will vote for it. However, the trouble lies elsewhere. Some Social Democrats and some some Greens are against it. Eight deputies from the Green Party announced that they would vote against sending the Bundeswehr to Afghanistan. If so, the government, possessing 341 seats, will not have a majority in the parliament, for which 334 votes are necessary. It would politically undermine the coalition. This was why, on Tuesday, Schroeder bravely connected the impending voting with giving the government a vote of confidence. The fate of the coalition government will be under question,if it does not receive its “own” majority. Therefore, the opponents have another dilemma: reaching a coalition majority is more likely.

From the very beginning of the anti-terrorist operation, Washington considered Germany to be a second-rank “friend." Great Britain and Russia are now the USA’s faithful allies. However, Berlin was beforehand informed by Washington about its strikes on Afghan targets.

Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder immediately appeared before the press in his new residence and fully supported the US’s activities. Therefore, why did Germany, which has always been faithful ally of the US, fall into disgrace? Some experts associate this with the scandal that took place in this May. The reason for the scandal were secret reports about negotiations between Bush and Schroeder and about contacts between Berlin and Kaddafi that in some unknown way received the rage of German conservative newspapers. The Russian president made a statement: he blamed a “provocation made to ruin Russia’s relations with Germany and with the whole European Union.” Such a statment was caused by a super-secret report about a meeting between Bush and Schroeder: they seem to have been agreed about stopping financial help to Russia until Moscow stops transferring big sums from Western currency investments to foreign accounts. They are supposed to have spoken about a secret meeting in Tripoli between Kaddafi and Schroeder’s adviser for diplomatic question Michael Steiner. At the meeting, Kaddafi is said to have assumed his country could be a mastermind of the terrorist act in Eastern Berlin in 1986, directed against US soldiers. The Russian president characterized the spreading of the rumour about freezing help to Moscow as an impossible provocation. Many-month efforts for developing political and personal contacts between Putin and Schroeder went out the window.

Officially, Washington tries to underestimate this scandal’s significance. However, the United States is obviously disappointed with their German ally: “Berlin should apoligize to Bush, - Aspen Institute director Steven Socol noticed, - and try to earnestly state its guarantees of securing confidentiality of their further summits.” Probably, the coolness of relations between the US and Germany was a result of this scandal. But probably not. Anyway, Germany does not participate in the Afghan operation, with which Gerhard Schroeder is not satisfied. Schroeder’s task is to heighten Germany’s international status and to guarantee its participation in solving issues of world community, which this country without any doubt has a right. According to the chancellor, Germany’s participation in the anti-terrorist fight will change its role in the world: “Earlier, Germany was said to be an economical giant but a political pygmy.” Now, the situation is changing. Against a background of the 11 September events, the federal government is intending to earn new cognizance. For the first time, Berlin will be able to send the Bundeswehr to hot spots, including Afghanistan. While it intends to use military contingent during the whole year at its discretion and according to circumstances, without any promises to Bundestag. Not everybody in Germany likes this political aspiration to gain a piece of the world cake. The memory about the past makes itself felt. Pacifist spirits are strong in German society. Anti-war and anti-imperialist manifestations are regular in the country. In general, people negatively regard the country’s possible participation in the military actions.

However, what alarms the German public most of all is “limitless solidarity” with the US that was declared by the chancellor. It seems to be a serious political risk, because there is no clarity regarding the US's further plans: according to some statements of President Bush, spreading military actions to other countries, for example to Iraq or Somali, is not excluded. Taking into account the “limitless solidarity”, Germany could be involved into the conflict that promises to be global. Though, according to one of chancellor’s advisors, the risk is justified: “If we appear now, next time we will be able to participate in taking conclusions.”

However,the fact should be taken into account that several million oMuslims live in the country. If the Bundestag makes a positive decision, ethnic and social upheavals most likely will take place in Germany, which are of no use for the country and personally for Schroeder.

Germany is in fifth place after the US, Israel, Great Britain, and France of countries threatened by terrorists: on its territory, US military bases are situated.

Schroeder is playing a big game. He is ready to split the coalition, only not to miss the moment of sharing.

Variants of the further international patronage do not foresee Germany’s participation. This was why Germany sent recently its diplomats to the US to make the White House understand it was seriously interested in it. Berlin would like to prefer the above-mentioned patronage would be executed by the great eight together with Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries. Though the formula “6 + 1” proposed by UN excludes Berlin from this process. Today’s voting is the last chance for Germany and probably for Schroeder himself.

Dmitry Litvinovich


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