Does the US Still Care about Germany?

Just how much influence Berlin still has in Washington will become clear on Friday when the chancellor meets with President Obama. The two reportedly plan to discuss, in addition to foreign policy challenges such as Afghanistan and Iran, climate change and new regulations for the global financial markets.

The latter two issues are the sources of significant disagreement between Washington and Berlin. Germans are concerned that Obama -- even as he has made domestic efforts to begin combating climate change -- is uninterested in an international deal. When it comes to the economy, Merkel's recent critique of Washington's loose monetary policy raised many an eyebrow in the US capital.

But in the Library of Congress on Thursday evening, Merkel made just brief mention of the issues in her 30 minute address. "We have never been so close (on climate change)," she praised. "There is still room for convergence, but we are on an excellent path."

On financial oversight, she warned: "Such a crisis cannot be allowed to repeat itself. It is the result of market excesses; we need more regulation." She added that it isn't yet clear whether some banks have understood the kind of damage that the crisis has done. She said nothing about current US monetary policy.

One wonders how much she will have to say on the issue when she and Obama go before the press in the Rose Garden at the White House. Even the smallest gestures of the two politicians will be exhaustively analyzed. It isn't just the German press, after all, which has reported about the not altogether warm relationship between the two leaders. US papers have likewise begun following the story.

Still, on the eve of her meeting with Obama, Merkel's manners were impeccable. "We have had numerous opportunities to talk," she said in reference to the president -- before rattling off the list. She claimed to have followed Obama's initial months in office "with interest" and with "great pleasure." She has an "elementary interest" in his success.

It was a polite thing to say. But it didn't come across as being warm.

If the two are interested in convincing the world once and for all that their relationship is a positive one, a bit of warmth is essential. The kind of warmth she showered on Chuck Hagel on Thursday night.

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