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Bush has friendly discussion with Schroeder before going to Russia

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush called Germany 'a partner in peace.'
MAINZ, Germany -- President Bush seems to be doing a role reversal with Germany and Russia.
Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, long at odds over Iraq, went out of their way to exchange pleasantries Wednesday, a day before a potentially testy meeting with "good friend" Vladimir Putin over the pace of democracy in Russia.
As war protesters shouted "Go Home Bush" outside a 17th-century palace, the American president and Schroeder played down differences over Iraq, NATO and global warming. They voiced common cause on Middle East peace and insisted that the United States and Europe work together to force Iran to forgo nuclear weapons.
"I would call Germany a partner in peace and a partner in freedom and a partner of doing our duty," Bush said after his meeting with the German chancellor.
Schroeder said he and the president had "a very, very intense discussion" but also "a very friendly conversation I'm very pleased about."
The two leaders met as snow fell on this ancient village along the Rhine River, a town eerily empty because of security concerns.
Bush's day also included a visit to honor Mainz's most famous legacy, printing inventor Johannes Gutenberg. The Gutenberg Museum features the first printing press, which produced the Gutenberg Bible.
The president also spoke with U.S. troops at nearby Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
Reconciliation signs
Signs of reconciliation between the American and German political leaders abounded.
During the arrival ceremony, Bush and Schroeder shook hands with 20 troops who fought the post-Sept. 11 war in Afghanistan -- 10 Americans and 10 Germans.
Bush came to Mainz in part because his father gave a well-received speech here in 1989. Speaking nearly six months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the senior Bush declared, "let Europe be whole and free."
The relationship between this President Bush and Schroeder turned particularly nasty during the run-up to the Iraq invasion.
U.S. officials said Schroeder had promised not to use Iraq in his 2002 re-election bid; it wound up being the centerpiece of his campaign in what turned out to be a narrow victory.
German officials have said Schroeder stood for principle and continues to believe the invasion was a mistake.
His outspoken opposition was a sharp break for a German leader, analysts said, and in many ways symbolized growing estrangement between Europe and the United States.
After World War II, "one German leader after another legitimated himself by lining up with the United States," said Georgetown University international relations specialist Charles Kupchan. "Schroeder has bolstered his position by standing against rather than with Washington."
Major differences
There are also basic political differences, analysts said. Schroeder, a Marxist when young, was a 1960s activist; the conservative Bush is a well-known critic of '60s activism.
"These are just two very different temperaments, with very conservative and very liberal outlooks," said Steven Ozment, author of "A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People."
On Wednesday, Schroeder said the "intense discussion" with Bush included their disagreement over climate change. Bush reiterated his objection to the Kyoto global warming treaty but said he wanted to work with Germany and others on new technologies to reduce pollution.
The German leader has also proposed possible changes to NATO. Arguing recently that NATO is "no longer the primary venue where transatlantic partners discuss and coordinate strategies," Schroeder called for a new panel that would involve the European Union.
Asked about NATO after his summit with Bush, Schroeder joked, "we want to focus on where we do agree."
Bush said he appreciated the "spirit" in which Schroeder spoke, adding, "I interpreted the comments to mean he wants NATO to be relevant."
As for Iran, Schroeder said he "must say 'no' to any kind of nuclear weapon," to which Bush later said the Iranians "were caught enriching uranium after they had signed a treaty saying they wouldn't enrich uranium."
When the topic of Iraq surfaced, Schroeder noted that Germany is helping train Iraqi police and security forces; Bush lauded Germany's "vital contribution."