Condi's and Rummy's attempts to "make nice" with the Europe evidently did not have the desired effect on German Chancellor Schröder. Over the weekend he had his Defense Minister Struck (the chancellor was sick) read a speech to the attendees of the Security Conference in Munich that started a firestorm of controversy - fueling the anti-German sentiments of the US press. The speech was interpreted as a unilateral attack on NATO:
However, the substance and the timing of the chancellor's idea shocked Nato loyalists because it appeared to suggest the need for a fundamental rethink of the organisation's role as the primary forum for transatlantic relations just when great efforts are being made on both sides to heal the wounds caused by the Iraq war. Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, doubted the merit of high level panels and said Nato was already the “forum to discuss important issues”.
“There is enormous value in Nato.” Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato secretary general, said new debates over the transatlantic relationship would not be fruitful. “Nato is functioning fine and it doesn't need a panel of experts to analyse and advise on what we are doing,” he said.
The conservative columnist David Brooks uses his column today in the New York Times to mock the chancellor and his cabinet.
But I'd tell the marines that I didn't hear too many Europeans giving specific ideas on how to make Iraq a success. Instead, I heard too many speakers evading this current pivot point in history by giving airy-fairy speeches about their grand visions of the future architecture of distant multilateral arrangements.
I heard the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, in his soaring, stratospheric mode, declaring that we need the "creation of a grand design, a strategic consensus across the Atlantic." We need a "social Magna Carta" to bind the globe. His chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, proposed a vague commission to rebuild or replace NATO. His president, Horst Köhler, insisted, "Unless we tackle global poverty, long-term security will remain elusive."
But read Schröder's speech (English version can be found here). What he is really saying is that NATO is no longer the proper forum for reaching a political consensus between Europe and the United States. The US has shown it is perfectly willing to alienate its NATO partners when it pursues its geo-political objectives. The EU has now reached a new level of economic and political power, and NATO - designed primarily as a military alliance - no longer serves the cause of trans-atlantic dialogue.
Ladies and gentlemen, German foreign and security policy is determined by our geographic and political location at the heart of Europe. We are formulating it in Europe, for Europe and from Europe. It is in Germany's, as well as the international community's interests, that the European Union assume greater international responsibility. The step towards creating its own set of political and military instruments with the European Security and Defence Policy is therefore necessary
The fact that this message was disparaged by the German opposition parties, as well as by the European media, shows a persistent lack of confidence among Europeans.