Tag: Germany

Trolling Me Softly

While the Russia probe is expanding to include naïve 36-year old Harvard graduates, pundits all over the world have been worried about elections in other countries. The massive WikiLeaks dump (pun intended) on Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in France did not work, so the next troublesome case seems to be Germany (the UK is fine, they are already leaving the EU).

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Building a Wall Against Populism’s Spread in Europe

With populism on the march across the West in the past 18 months, conventional wisdom suggests this lurch toward nativism will continue. With the Dutch Trump increasing his seats in parliament, Turkey’s President stuffing the ballot box to win a referendum taking him closer to full on authoritarianism, the National Front’s candidate looking set to get into the second round of Sunday’s French election by exploiting a terrorist attack, and Germany’s long-time leader seeming tired and mounting a lackluster campaign, by most accounts the liberal international order is in for some additional sharp thrusts to the midriff. And what is bad in western Europe, according to a vast army of pundits is appearing even more fragile and vulnerable in east central Europe.

But au contraire, while the LIEO is not exactly alive and well, it remains in place and its upholders stand more than a fighting chance to preserve it in the face of Trump, Brexit, and Russia’s taking the U.S. down a peg. Indeed, not only is western Europe holding the line, but east central Europe is lending a hand in erecting a wall against populism’s surge. Were we to have the opportunity to choose any three countries in the world to hold elections in the midst of all this seeming upheaval we would select the Netherlands, France, and Germany. In essence, we are damn lucky it is this threesome instead of Italy, Slovakia, and Hungary or really just about any other country spanning the globe.

Against all predictions, the Dutch put the first pieces of this wall in sturdy place. Geert Wilders was stymied big time. We knew in advance that the Dutch political system of multi parties and rampant coalition governance would keep him from becoming Prime Minister, but he was widely predicted to get the most votes and augment his party’s representation in parliament considerably. Wrong. The Dutch – like their French and German counterparts – are among the most informed, literate, and savvy in the world. They have watched the supposedly nonbinding Brexit referendum vote and Trump’s rise in horror, and we should actually have expected them to do precisely what they did.

The French are on the cusp of doing the same, again smack in the face of widespread conventional wisdom. Observers seem to forget that the French have a notorious tendency to flirt with “extremists” in the first round of their presidential elections, only to clamor to the center and vote in moderates in the second. Now granted, we are not living in normal times. But the French are not about to traipse down the merry road of nativism; no indeed, they will be the last to allow any Trump effect to take hold in their motherland. In fact, it will be interesting to see how many talking heads begin to grasp that a vibrant “reverse Trump effect” has already taken hold in the West. More than merely doing the right thing, the wondrous French will revel in effectively giving Trump and the little Englanders the finger. Continue reading

Why Piketty Is Wrong about Debt Forgiveness

[UPDATE: This provides more detail and context than I do. Read it instead of, or at least in addition to, my post.]

Thomas Piketty has decided that because Germany was the beneficiary of debt relief in 1953 that they should extend the same privilege to Greece today:

When I hear the Germans say that they maintain a very moral stance about debt and strongly believe that debts must be repaid, then I think: What a huge joke! Germany is the country that has never repaid its debts. It has no standing to lecture other nations.

Before explaining why this is both normatively and positively misguided I would like to clear some brush by mentioning two things. First, everyone (including me!) agrees that Greece’s debt must be written down. In fact, a gradual disposal of Greece’s debt has been a part of bailout program since 2010 and more of it will be discharged in the future. Greece has not paid back a single cent on net. In the meantime the debt is being financed through rollovers whose interest is mostly being paid by the rest of Europe while Greece has received fiscal transfers equivalent to more than 100% of GDP. So it is not an accurate characterization of the situation to say that the Greek economy is being squeezed in order to pay back debt; it is being squeezed because its level of spending was not matched by its level of productivity. And in some ways it still is not, although it is now quite close.

Second, while it would be very nice to have an international bankruptcy mechanism that would allow us to discharge debt and reorganize national economies in an orderly fashion, governments are unlikely to cede sovereignty over this issue for understandable reasons. So ad hoc bargaining is what we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.

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In Exile at Home: Impressions from Europe

Copyright Warner Brothers

Copyright Warner Brothers

I have been able to avoid this fate for almost 12 years now, but they finally got me. Being a citizen of Germany, I have been studying in the U.S. on student visas for the last decade and even though it has always been a bureaucratic nightmare, associated with significant financial costs, I usually managed to obtain the necessary documents to enter the United States. Until this summer, when the application for my work visa got delayed for reasons that I don’t need to get into here. Long story short, I had to leave the U.S. for three months, organize someone to sublet my apartment on very short notice, find an alternative source of income, new health insurance, cancel my attendance at APSA, etc. I had promised my daughter, who is staying with her mom in Ohio, that we would take at least two road trips during the summer (she wanted to go to New York City. “Why?” I asked. “Lady Liberty” she answered). Canceled. But hey, things could be worse. So, I decided to make the best of it and travel through Europe with Lise Herman, a Ph.D. candidate at LSE. In the next couple of posts I will report from our journey, tell you a bit about the mood in Europe, and touch some of the issues that the people, and especially the younger generation, are concerned or not concerned about. Continue reading

The Cost of Spying

As my first official post as a guest contributor to the Duck, I would like to take a moment to thank Charli, Jon, and the gang. This really is an honor and a privilege for me, and hopefully my posts will live up to the Duck’s high standard!

There has been no lack of coverage in the United States regarding the National Security Agency’s spying activities. My sense, however, is that the focus in the media and by politicians has largely been on the domestic political implications of the NSA dragnet. The Obama administration has gone to great pains to communicate that the NSA only targets non-Americans. That makes sense, as there are important laws governing surveillance on Americans, and few if any pertaining to espionage against foreign targets.

But the United States does not exist in an international vacuum, and the NSA revelations as well as the political treatment have effects overseas. This summer I had the great privilege of working with my colleague Vicki Birchfield as she directed the Nunn School’s 10-week study abroad in the EU, and in that context I was able to observe some of the international implications of NSA spying up close. In some of the places we went, NSA spying hardly registered. In Athens, for example, we very much got the sense that surviving the economic crisis and damming the flood of undocumented immigrants occupied most of the attention of policymakers and the public.

But NSA surveillance clearly had a significant impact in France and Germany, albeit in very different ways. In France, the response seemed to be the same as many foreign policy analysts in the U.S.: everyone does it. At the French foreign ministry, briefers specifically argued that, because the French public knows France has an expansive intelligence establishment, the revelations about American spying were seen as part of what modern state does in international affairs today. That may be part of why the French government has said relatively little about the subject.

However, the briefers at the French foreign ministry did not argue that all Europeans see the issue the same way. Indeed, they specifically highlighted that Germany saw the surveillance in a very different light. Owing to the WWII experience with the Nazi state and the postwar position at the heart of the Cold War, Germans understand wiretapping and other forms of surveillance in different way. Rather than being just something the modern state does, NSA-style espionage is a sign of enmity and oppression. US targeting of Chancellor Angela Merkel, turning of intelligence and defense officials, and repeated reassurances by US officials to the American public that the spying was aimed at foreign nationals all feed into a narrative that the US-German relationship is not a friendship and alliance between states of shared identity and values, but rather something more contingent and darker.

I think it is difficult for Americans to understand the importance of these issues. During the Cold War, the West and specifically the US were the guarantors of West German survival and in later years served as a beacon for a new generation of East Germans. At a deeper, perhaps collectively unconscious, level I think a strong relationship and friendship with the US as the ‘leader of the free world’ serves as an indicator that Germany has truly left the first half of the 20th century behind. Friendship and trust is the key here. The US has alliances with all sorts of unsavory regimes (Saudi Arabia) but only true friendships with fellow democracies. At the same time, US spying contributes to German disillusionment in the idea that the US really represents freedom and liberty in the world—because spying on friends embodies neither. In all cases, the issue of spying is an emotional one for Germans, linked to their history, identity, and sense of place in the world.

There are indications of this interpretation. Merkel and German President Joachim Gauck have both come out strongly against the NSA spying—in contrast to relative silence in France. That suggests that the revelations about the NSA have a political power in Germany that they do not in France. Merkel also recently expelled the CIA station chief in Berlin, an unprecedented move by an ally. At a briefing at a NGO in Berlin, an interlocutor who deals with German federal officials on a regular basis told us that German transatlanticist foreign policymakers were in tears over NSA spying. Given the nature of the NGO and the briefer’s background, I belief the claim is not hyperbole. Many Germans feel personally betrayed by the United States. That in turn undermines the bonds of shared trust and identity that are critically important for maintaining international peace and stability. This happens not just at the level of policymakers, but also within the broader public. It is here that NSA spying helps fuel the establishment of new systems and narratives through which Germans make sense of the world. These are not kind to the United States, and that has real ramifications. On a range of issues, from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to events in Ukraine and beyond, the United States relies a great deal on generally shared systems of meaning with its close allies like Germany. As those systems come into greater disjuncture, relations and in turn the means for managing issues will come under greater pressure. To exemplify, it is worth asking ourselves what the German response toward Russia’s bad behavior in Ukraine and US demands on Europe would have been had the NSA revelations not occurred. Would Germany see more merit in the US position? Would it in turn be more willing to make the sacrifices US policy demands?

The negative impact of NSA spying is not limited to Germany. In Brussels we heard from Commission officials resentment toward the United States. In the context of TTIP negotiations, some officials wondering aloud as to the point of a negotiating when the Europeans suspect that the United States already knows everything the EU has to offer. Anti-TTIP graffiti in Brussels also suggests an underlying anti-American resentment, exacerbated no doubt by the NSA revelations and the subsequent handling by US officials. Indicators like these are small, but they betray a fraying between the US and Europe that American officials and the public should be very concerned about. No other region on the planet shares as much cultural and political history with the US as Europe. Nor does any other region have as many states that broadly share the US vision of peaceful, liberal, and humanitarian global system. America damages these relationships at its own risk.

Anti-Semitism in Germany: A Comment

“Mutti,” aka Angela Merkel, is not amused. Neither is the rest of the German political establishment, the German media, or the vast majority of German people. Three days ago, some of the protesters against the Israeli campaign in Gaza yelled anti-Semitic hate paroles, a man wearing a kippah was chased through Berlin, and the police didn’t interfere. This is absolutely shameful for all of us Germans and it is very understandable that the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, condemned the acts in the strongest words. However, Mr. Hadas-Handelsman is wrong to insinuate parallels between the current situation and the Germany of 1938. Continue reading

Germany: Beyond Its History, Again

world-cup-2014-germany-celebrates-1-0-win-argentina

Germany won the World Cup in soccer, demonstrating to all that its team truly is the best in the world. The German players and coaches were dominant, dispatching a succession of opponents with near masterly strategy and skill—including a historic drubbing of the overwhelming local favorite Brazil, expected by many to emerge with a symbolic victory for the host country. Instead, the Germans beat them handily at home, before going on to prevent Argentina from denying them from an even more symbolic victory of their own.

A massive celebration immediately ensued across Germany, among Germans the world over, and vast throngs that were cheering them on for the World Cup victory they achieved in grand style. Strangely however, not all Germans were among the jubilant. In fact, a sizable minority of Germans remain uncomfortable with such a widespread and vibrant display of patriotism. The weight of history remains staunch, so much so that some of this ilk have publicly called for banning the display of German flags in public. It is an odd phenomenon, to say the least.

For don’t Germans deserve at long last to be proud, and unreservedly so; in fact, doesn’t Germany deserve to be treated like—and become again—a normal country? After all, the horrors of World War II took place more than half a century ago. Successive German generations have grown up in a culture of collective guilt, in which the vestiges of pride and patriotism were purposely kept out of reach. But Germany long ago has paid its debts, with memorials to the holocaust strewn across the country and decade after decade of responsibility displayed on the European and world stages by every Chancellor since Konrad Adenauer in the name of everyone that elected them. Continue reading

Putin is Losing the Current Round of the Ukraine Crisis

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If only present day global competition were confined to the World Cup. But while eyes have turned back to a new crisis in Iraq—something I’m not exactly proud of predicting here—at least there has been progress on the Ukraine crisis, which has gone from boil to simmer in recent weeks. At this stage it has become clear that Russia has blinked, and thus will not be swallowing eastern Ukraine whole. Just as important, we now have clear as day evidence that President Putin’s gambit has failed:  Ukraine has not only signed the EU trade agreement that former President Yanukovych walked away from—sparking the crisis in the first place—newly elected President Petro Poroshenko formally asked the EU to open membership negotiations with his government. In other words Msr. Putin may have purloined Crimea, but he has lost Ukraine proper.

Strategically speaking, it matters less that the EU is no longer as rosy about bringing Ukraine fully into its membership fold. After all, previously doing so was one of the major causes of the now receding crisis. It is more important that the EU signed precisely the same trade deal, with the very ink pen that Yanukovych would have used had he gone through with it last year. More important still is the fact that Ukraine continues to tilt west not east, and in landslide public opinion terms. Not only did Poroshenko achieve an electoral landslide, but there even remains a majority of citizens in eastern Ukraine that do not want to be part of Russia.

But the EU has also done something it previously had not:  it threatened that a new round of much more punitive sanctions would be levied against Russia if it did not stop destabilizing eastern Ukraine by sending in mercenaries, ammunition, and major military equipment in continual violation of Ukraine’s porous border—this time with a deadline.  Defying a host of predictions both in Europe and back in the U.S., German Chancellor Merkel has actually stepped up to begin providing forceful strategic leadership. The U.S. is also preparing a new more punitive round of sanctions. And Putin has foresworn any direct use of force after—blink—pulling the 40,000 Russian troops back from the border.

Predictably, however, at present the negotiations that were underway to extend the ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia—brokered by France, Germany, and the OSCE—have broken down. Poroshenko has rescinded the ceasefire, claiming rightfully that the Russofile separatists have not adhered to it (despite surprising analysts by agreeing to it in the first place). If the Ukrainian military were to make any gains in the fighting, this would lead to additional leverage at the negotiating table—which Russia is already calling for a return to. More importantly, the failure of the ceasefire at this precise point may in fact be good thing. For it will compel the EU and the U.S. to follow through on their sanctions threat, which they may have backed away from had the ceasefire lasted. More spine stiffening in the West is a good thing, something this entire crisis has in fact been good for. Continue reading

Thursday Linkage

Editor’s note: this post first appeared on my personal blog.

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Shakespeare, Cyprus, and the End of the Euro Crisis

Shylock. "Is that the law?"

Much ado.  Investors keep getting burned in betting on the exit of members of the Eurozone, let alone the breakup of the currency/monetary union of the EU.  And econ/business experts keep getting their predictions wrong.  The simple reason:  the EU, from its econ/financial area to the vast array of its other policy areas, at heart is a political project.  Events continue to show that despite the painful strains of major economic duress, this commitment remains intact.

Despite the messy manner in which its member state governments deal with crises–largely explained by institutional reasons, less so by incompetence–the EU and the euro are around for good.  The EU certainly has some major restructuring to do in terms of necessary banking and fiscal unions, and it rarely looks good in a crisis.  But it will carry on muddling through its challenges and in a wider historical perspective continue to provide its citizens with a considerable range of benefits.  Just as it has for decades, particularly since the advent of its single internal market nearly 30 years ago.

Nonetheless, the EU made major mistakes in the bailout of Cyrus and nearly botched the entire thing.  Even worse, the whole affair demonstrates a distinct inability to act strategically when the stakes are high.  Repercussions from this episode that haven’t been captured in the headlines will continue to reverberate for years.  Surprise, it was politics that accounted for bringing back the specter of crisis, not economics.

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USC-CSIS Conference on Korean Unification (2): ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will not happen

New_KSI_Banner_3

Here is part one of this post. The following will make more sense if you start there. I noted that I am participating, today in Seoul (attend if you can), in a USC-CSIS project on Korean unification. This is the final ‘phase’ of their Korea Project on unification.

I thought I would post my thoughts on the previous USC-CSIS Korea report (available here) which provided all sorts of suggestions for reconstruction. It’s useful reading if your area is East Asia or Korea, but I actually disagree with a fair number of the analogies of NK to Iraq and Afghanistan. I think Germany is a better model for what will happen, and I think a ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement like in greater China is nearly impossible given the extraordinary deep ideological divide, which is also existentially necessary for NK to demonstrate why it must be a separate, poorer Korean state. So it’s either implosion or stalemate.

Anyway, the rest of my thoughts are after the jump. Having read the CSIS report is not a prerequisite to understanding my arguments, but it would help.

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USC/CSIS Conference on Korean Unification (1): it will cost WAY more than people think

Cha_Challenges__110The University of Southern California Korean Studies Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies are running a joint Korea Project: Planning for the Long Term (pic to the left). CSIS will hold the last of three conferences in this project at the Asan Institute on January 21st next week. If you are in Seoul, you should go. The agenda looks pretty good. (Contact the Asan Institute.) I’d like to thank USC and CSIS for soliciting my participation..

The January 21 conference is actually the last meeting of the Project. The first meeting asked Korea area experts to look at unification; the second meeting asked functional experts to do the same. This upcoming third meeting will look at regional impacts from unification. I will comment on papers from Russia and Japan. I will put up my thoughts on those papers after the Phase III conference, but for now, I thought I would post my comments on the Phase II conference (by the functional experts).

Basically I argue that  Germany is a better model for what will happen here than either the occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan, or LDCs in transition. Also I don’t buy for one second that NK will enter into a meaningful ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement like in greater China. DPRK change meaningful enough to permit a federation would be so far-reaching, that it would inevitably raise the question why the DPRK  exists at all. Ideological change is an existential threat to the regime: why be a poorer version of SK if you’re in a federation with SK? why not just join up? This is the logic that undid the GDR. So it’s either implosion or stalemate IMO.

Here is the final CSIS report on Phase II (a must-read if you want to research unification); my gloss on that follows the jump. (Here is the much shorter Phase I report.)

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What the hell is going on in Europe?

So I spend a few years writing a book on American foreign policy and stop paying attention to European politics, only to return and find the whole thing in chaos. I am finding three developments going on in Europe fascinating (if despicable and disgusting).

First, the Financial Times recently ran a story on Sarokozy’s plan to launch a debate in France on the importance of secularism, which is really just a way to pick on Muslims and draw votes from the National Front, who have been doing very well lately under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter. (As an aside, how much of a right-wing badass can you be with the first name Jean-Marie?). OK, this is cynical but it is also really interesting for anyone who knows anything about French history. Secularism was one of the, if not the, central political and social cleavage in France for a long, long time, tied up in divide between revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces. And of course there was the Dreyfus affair. But this time it is right that is pushing for more secularism, an issue which has historically belonged to the left. Of course this is not really genuine. It is a way of picking on Muslims and trying to force them to assimilate. It is the intolerance of tolerance. But it shows you how in France, secularism is so firmly established that PTJ might call it a “rhetorical commonplace,” and it can be picked up and twisted in new ways.


In other countries the question of how forgiving we are of other cultures that do not necessarily embrace Western values, the tolerance of intolerance, seems to be a real one. And it makes for curious alignments of left and right, like happened in the Netherlands with the Pim Fortuyn movement. I can imagine being on the left and taking a strident line against forcing women to wear headscarves. But I can just as easily imagine thinking it is none of our business if we are truly living up to our democratic principles. In fact I am thinking both of those things right now.

Second, how can it be that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is still in office when he is ON TRIAL for PAYING FOR SEX from an UNDERAGE girl? Seriously?! Isn’t just one of these things enough to get canned? It is one thing to say, “Oh, the Europeans are forgiving of politicians and their mistresses, they’re just not as puritanical as Americans” and quite another to account for how this guy can stay on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not morally appalled. (Well, the underage thing is a bit much.) But really I just want to understand how he manages this politically. Someone who really understands Italian politics please explain this to me. As for the bigger picture, I really want someone to write a book or an article on scandals and when or whether politicians resign. Just recently they kicked out the German defense minister for plagiarism. There was a grass-roots national revolt. For plagiarism! This is an academic gold mine. Someone has to figure out what Larry Craig and Berlusconi have in common. Do they like public humiliation?

Third, what on earth is the German government doing? I don’t know if I have every seen German foreign policy so badly managed. Well, this side of the Third Reich, I mean. Not only are they not providing some token support for the NATO mission in Libya, but they are making a fuss about it. These are the normally loyal Christian Democrats, not the anti war Greens and SPD, who are a bit fed up with more military interventions. The CDU was more supportive of the Iraq War than this, which was much more controversial in Germany. I don’t think it is ideological. I am sure they don’t like Qaddafi, and they have no real problem with force. There is a UN mandate. It just seems like craven domestic political pandering, which is marking their entire foreign policy, and domestic policy too. Everytime there is a deal on a new financial mechanism to bail out future euro members, the Germans renege after forcing the discussion in the first place.

Well, I have to go. I have to go find an underage girl to pay to write my next book. Seriously?!

(Head of) State Secrets

As I’ve already noted, former President George W. Bush is apparently settling some scores in his new memoir. In Europe, his passages about former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are attracting a good deal of attention.

According to press reports, Bush says Schroder was for the Iraq war before it was against it. Because of his own electoral problems, Bush implies, Schroeder flip-flopped.

The former president writes that when he said he was considering the use of force in Iraq, Schroder said, “‘What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.'”

Mr. Bush writes that he “took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schroder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq.”

…Mr. Bush writes in “Decision Points” that though he continued to work with the German leader on some issues, “as someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust. Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again.”

Unlike Bush’s former domestic ally Mitch McConnell, who has remained mum about Bush’s similar accusations, Schroeder says Bush is lying:

Schroder said Tuesday that former President George W. Bush “is not telling the truth” in his new memoir “Decision Points,” according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

…Schroder says Mr. Bush’s description of the exchange is false. He said in that meeting and in others he told Mr. Bush that Germany would stand by the United States if Iraq is shown “to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaida fighters.” He added, however, that it became clear in 2002 that the alleged connection between Iraq and al-Qaida “was false and constructed.”

Obviously, one of these former leaders has the facts wrong.

Throughout Europe, if press reports are accurate, most people side with Schroeder.

Bush skeptics certainly have history on their side. The most hawkish supporters of the Iraq-war simply did not countenance conditional support — and have often accused political opponents of simple and hypocritical “flip flops” when something more complicated was at work. I’ve pointed this out before in regard to the “pro-war” votes in the Congress and UN Security Council in fall 2002. Lots of people labeled “war supporters” were simply trying to give the U.S. enough leverage to force Iraq to yield to weapons inspections and assure disarmament.

In this case, Schroeder’s support was contingent upon the evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda:

“Schroeder’s support (for the invasion of Iraq) was conditional on evidence being found of terrorists being harbored in Iraq, so when there was no evidence delivered, he withdrew his support,” LSE professor [Dr. Henning] Meyer told Deutsche Welle. “Bush is attempting to polish his own picture of this situation with the Germans by saying that the breakdown in relations was not his fault and that it was Schroeder who turned opinion against him.”

As RFE/RL reviewer Christian Caryl notes, Bush’s memoir “passes over in silence…how his administration’s repeated declarations of a link between Al-Qaeda and Hussein’s regime warped the work of the intelligence agencies, who had been told all too clearly what their masters wanted to hear.”

They clearly don’t think much of the Germans

Hasn’t it occurred to any of these idiots that adopting Nazi iconography and aesthetics is the last thing a US Presidential candidate would want to do to improve his popularity in Germany?

Unless he’s aiming for that all-important 14-25 East German demographic, half of whom apparently believe that “National Socialism had good sides” (meaning that the other half believed it had no positive qualities whatsoever, I might add).

As Haaretz reported:

A poll published Wednesday showed a quarter of Germans believe there were
at least some positive aspects to Nazi rule – a finding that comes after a popular talk show host was fired for praising Nazi Germany’s attitude toward motherhood.

Pollsters for the Forsa agency, commissioned by the weekly Stern magazine, asked whether National Socialism also had some good sides (such as) the construction of the highway system, the elimination of unemployment, the low criminality rate (and) the encouragement of the family.

Forsa said 25 percent responded yes – but 70 percent said no.

Somehow, though, I doubt the pro-Nazi imagery of half-African Barrack Obama will hold out much appeal to the NPD‘s supporters.

Next week: Obama borrows Quisling motifs for speech in Norway.

Steinmeier’s Georgian march


The Abkhazia plan proposed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been getting close to zero press in the United States.

Which may be appropriate. As a Kommersant headline sums it up: “Russia Signs On to German Plan, After Abkhazia Rejects It.”

Russia has given high marks to the plan for a Georgian-Abkhazian settlement proposed by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and called it “conceptually absolutely correct.” That practical support from Moscow for Germany’s intermediary efforts comes immediately after the plan was rejected by Abkhazia and was a sensational surprise. Moscow has reacted jealously to all similar attempts coming from the West. In reality, it seems that Moscow simply did not want to be the one to sound the death knell for the plan, which has little chance of success in any case.

As the St. Petersburg Times reports:

The German-sponsored plan was agreed to in principle last month in Berlin by representatives of the five powers acting under the United Nations secretary-general — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

The plan envisions three stages, the first of which involves increasing confidence-building measures between the government in Tbilisi and the Abkhaz leadership in Sukhumi.

The second stage is to focus on the province’s economic reconstruction with a donors’ conference in Berlin, while the third would see talks on Abkhazia’s political status, which most experts consider by far the most difficult issue.

Bagapsh said Friday that he would only consider the first stage.

Iakobashvili said expectations should not be raised too high and that no one expected that Steinmeier had any kind of magic wand that could solve the problems all at once.

Steinmeier himself said he had no illusions but that he wanted to press on.

“Each side’s position is still far from that of the other,” he said in a report posted on the German Foreign Ministry’s web site. “But the recent events force us to find a way out of the rising violence.”

Perhaps. But the status quo serves Russian interests pretty well: it gives Mosvow more time to de facto integrate Abkhazia into the Russian Federation.

Image source: the BBC

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