America Must Accept Responsibility for Global Climate
Gerhard Schroeder is the chancellor of Germany. He spoke
with Los Angeles Times Berlin correspondent Carol Williams for NPQ's weekly
column, Global Viewpoint.
NPQ | How do you assess the current state of
the trans-Atlantic alliance? Does the absence of a unifying threat from
a Communist, nuclear-armed superpower substantially change the relationship?
GERHARD SCHROEDER | No. If the relationship between the US and
Germany, or between the US and Europe, was only about resisting a common
threat, that would be making too little of it. I have always seen the
basis of our relationship as common values, like the will to find peaceful
solutions to conflicts and the absolute will to defend democracy as the
most rational, actually the only possible form of government among civilized
people. These values also have to do with a common interest in free world
trade for the welfare of all people.
NPQ | What is your view of the proposed US national missile shield?
SCHROEDER | I don't want to see those of us in Europe having a
closed discussion about this, one that would, right at the beginning,
say, "No, never, under no circumstances." I believe the US is
entitled to fair consideration of its reaction to a changed security situation
and should not be shut down right at the start. That would be wrong.
NPQ | On the European Security and Defense Identity, why do you
think US military and security officials have such strong reservations
about a European military force? Will it divert resources from NATO?
SCHROEDER | I really don't understand these reservations, because
it has been a long-standing US demand that the Europeans be in the position
to react to regional conflicts in Europe-of course, strictly within the
framework of NATO and in no way against it. This is a policy that should
strengthen NATO, not weaken it.
NPQ | Does Germany spend too little on defense?
SCHROEDER | Security should not be considered so narrowly. Security
is more than military security or the security provided by defense forces
and defense appropriations. If one looks fairly at the role Germany has
played in the past 10 years, it must be said that we are the ones who
carried the brunt of the weight in supporting the rebuilding of democratic
structures in Russia. This is an enormous security boost. The dismantling
of the friend-foe relationship in Europe between the West and Russia is
a security improvement, and if you look at who is to be credited for this,
you should find that it is Germany.
NPQ | How will the availability of a rapid-reaction force affect
Europe's ability to respond to crises on the continent like the current
unrest in Macedonia?
SCHROEDER | This has already been demonstrated in Kosovo. We Europeans
have the majority of the troops stationed there now, which means we carry
the main burdens and costs. But one thing must be clear: For the time
being, it is a fact that NATO cannot function without the American structures.
We understand that there might be a troop reduction if the crisis is under
control, but I am sure that we need the American presence for the foreseeable
NPQ | If such a European military force were already in existence,
what would you, as leader of the biggest member state in the European
Union, advise as a course of action in Macedonia?
SCHROEDER | I hope that this conflict does not escalate, that there
will be a peaceful resolution. For this, we need more from the KFOR troops
based there, and more is being done. A de-escalation policy is needed
by the Macedonian government, whose territorial integrity we support.
But I think improvement in the approach of the Macedonian government to
the expectations of the Albanian minority is also needed....
NPQ | Germany's relations with Russia have been on a course of
steady improvement since unification, while Washington and Moscow lately
have endured strains reminiscent of the Cold War era. How might the Bush
administration's policies and priorities affect Russia's relations with
Germany and other European states?
SCHROEDER | I don't see any direct connection. The American government
does not need any European mediation to do what is best for American-Russian
relations. The latest developments and how they were handled-the expulsion
of the diplomats on both sides-shows that there is understanding of the
times. George Bush declared the problem solved. There were similar expressions
from the Russian side, and I hope very much that the American administration
and the Russian government both will get back into close discussions on
issues like missile defense.
NPQ | How do you assess the new US administration's environmental
policies and its readiness to abide by international accords?
SCHROEDER | We are hoping for ratification and realization of the
Kyoto Protocol. There are still questions that can be discussed in the
conference about how this can be achieved, whether this must be done by
individual countries or whether exchanges can be made with the Third World
countries. What is important is that the US accept its responsibility
for the world climate. They are the biggest economy in the world and the
heaviest energy consumers. It must be made clear that shirking this responsibility
is unfair to future generations. The question of fairness has always played
a major role in American policy, especially in domestic affairs. Therefore,
I am not so pessimistic regarding this question.
NPQ | German politicians from across the political spectrum often
contend that Germany is not a land of immigration. But with a 30-year
practice of accepting guest workers and millions of ethnic Germans and
Jews allowed in from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, is it
time for Germany to see itself as multicultural, and to see that as an
advantage, not something to be resisted?
SCHROEDER | That is our policy. We have reached an interesting
point in our discussions of this due to the "green card" program
that I kicked off myself. We now have an atmosphere that allows a more
relaxed discussion of immigration issues than in the past. People have
recognized that a country like Germany cannot fence itself off in a globalized
economy, and that we need more internationalism, not less.
NPQ | You have said that you consider US-European trade issues
more contentious than a national missile defense. What specifically is
SCHROEDER | Every once in a while there are conflicts coming up
within (the World Trade Organization). I want to give you an example.
At the moment, we have here not only in Germany, but all over Europe,
a discussion about healthy food. And here I think those who say we have
to allow in hormone-treated meat need to comprehend that we have a very
delicate consumer mentality due to the recent events here in Europe-BSE
and foot-and-mouth disease. One has to understand that at such times a
government has to insist on proper documentation and on the fact that
food products that have been treated in a certain way have to be labeled.
This is the only way to empower the consumer.
NPQ | What do you think of the debate raging in Germany about whether
Germans should feel pride and self-confidence? Is this such a big controversy
because Germany has arrived at some threshold in a new post-post-war era?
Or do the recent outbreaks of rightist violence suggest there remain too
many traces of racism and intolerance from the Nazi era for Germans to
speak of national pride?
SCHROEDER | Right-wing radicalism in Germany has to be decisively
combated. This must be done by any civilized country. In Germany we have
a special responsibility. I think the questions of pride or non-pride
are an abstract discussion. This is my country. I believe that Germans
have built a democratic community in a remarkable way during the past
50 years, and they do not have to hide.
back to index