The visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington has attracted little attention in the US media, perhaps further proof that Berlin barely ranks as a world power these days, and consistently punches under its weight in international affairs. Compared to both David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkel is a remarkably low-key figure when it comes to global impact, despite the size of the German economy.
Judging by the content of yesterday’s joint press conference in the White House East Room, which has to rank as among the most dull in recent memory, almost nothing of any real substance come out of the US-German discussions. Merkel gave no ground on Berlin’s refusal to join the NATO-led military operation in Libya, and bizarrely championed the cause of European integration while the EU economic project is going up in flames back home.
Obama declared that he wasn’t concerned about the prospect of a “double-dip recession”, while noting that “we’re experiencing some headwinds”, i.e. some catastrophic bad news on the economic front. He also gave Iran yet another half-hearted warning over its extremely well-advanced nuclear programme, threatening “additional steps, including potentially additional sanctions” – whatever that means. In the meantime, Germany remains a huge trading partner with Tehran, actually increasing its trade with the Islamist, terrorist-supporting regime in 2010.
By far the most telling part of the day’s proceedings came in the president’s welcoming address for his German counterpart on the South Lawn of the White House, where he could not resist a reference to his own rise to the highest office in the land, even comparing it with the momentous changes in eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War. Here is what he said:
And finally, as people around the world imagine a different future, the story of Germany and our alliance in the 20th century shows what’s possible in the 21st. Wars can end. Adversaries can become allies. Walls can come down. At long last, nations can be whole and can be free.
Madam Chancellor, the arc of our lives speaks to this spirit. It’s obvious that neither of us looks exactly like the leaders who preceded us. (Laughter and applause.) But the fact that we can stand here today as President of the United States and as Chancellor of a united Germany is a testament to the progress, the freedom, that is possible in our world.
In 2009 Barack Obama shamefully declined to attend the celebrations in Berlin commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall, sending his Secretary of State in his place, which National Review appropriately described at the time as “the most telling nonevent of his presidency.” In his White House remarks yesterday, Obama had another opportunity to remind America’s German friends of the great role played by Ronald Reagan and the United States in defeating Communism, ending the Cold War and liberating hundreds of millions from tyranny, but egotistically chose instead to talk about his own personal achievement in becoming president – hardly a stirring example of world leadership from a president who all too often prefers “leading from behind”.
Read at the Foundry By Nile Gardiner, The Foundry