Bush touches down Tuesday in Germany, where Chancellor Merkel will host him for dinner at a small castle outside Berlin. For much of the past six years, nearly sacrosanct US-German relations were in low ebb. Though some 200,000 Germans rallied in support of the US at the famed Brandenburg Gate after 9/11, goodwill turned to disdain after the Iraq invasion. The problem went far past the image of America, to serious and widespread disagreement with US policy on the Continent.
It was what author and longtime Europe-watcher Elizabeth Pond termed the "near death" of the transatlantic alliance in her 2003 book.
Today, however, what appeared to be an "unbridgeable gap" has been replaced by "a spirit of calm, pragmatic cooperation," says Constanze Stelzenmuller of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. In Europe there's a "rational realization that the areas of agreement are substantial, and that the Europeans and the Americans will often, but not always, need each other."
'The West needs US leadership'
The US elections, the crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worry about chaos ranging from terrorism to natural disasters to financial markets has raised anew a discourse in Europe's political class about America's role. Says a longtime German insider, "The political class realizes the West needs US leadership, despite what protesters say. Even after the US screw-up in the Middle East they feel the US is needed there."