- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001

Germany 'astonished'
President Bush's choice to be the next ambassador to Germany has shocked the German government by criticizing its "declining" defense budget.
Bela Anda, a spokesman for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper last week that officials were "astonished" that the nominee, Dan Coats, would comment on German domestic issues before he was even confirmed by the Senate.
Mr. Anda said the government would use the "appropriate channels" to express its disapproval.
Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Germany's declining defense budget "jeopardizes" the country's role in NATO.
"I have some personal thoughts at this point in time, but I am not carrying a message from the administration yet, obviously, until I am confirmed," Mr. Coats said.
"But clearly there has to be a recognition on the part of the Federal Republic of Germany that if they are to maintain a central partnership and position in NATO, it has to be accompanied by more than rhetoric. It has to be accompanied by resources.
"And there has been a concern on the part of the United States that a declining military budget and defense budget jeopardizes that critical role that they need to play."
Germany has been cutting its military budget since the end of the Cold War. The government spends about 1.6 percent of Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, making it one of the lowest military budgets in the NATO alliance, where the average is 2.3 percent of GDP.
While Germany's Social Democratic government took offense at Mr. Coats' comments, the conservative German opposition agreed with him.
"His statements are just like the ones I have been making for months," Volker Ruhe, a former defense minister, told the Frankfurter newspaper.
"The total neglect of the Bundeswehr [military] will lead to a difficult conflict with the [NATO] alliance and the United States," he said.
Mr. Coats also criticized the European Union's plans to create a defense force separate from NATO.
"There's a great danger that force will be a hollow force," he said. "It won't have the necessary infrastructure with training and equipment to be an effective fighting force unless it is supported by a sufficient budget."
Mr. Coats is the latest American to raise an alarm about the low defense spending of U.S. allies.
Paul Cellucci, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, last month warned that the Canadian military is at risk of losing "much of their effectiveness" unless the Canadian defense budget is raised significantly.

Arafat visit?
President Bush might invite Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to the White House at the "opportune moment" but has no immediate plans for such a visit, according to the U.S. ambassador to Israel.
"The president has never said he would never meet Arafat. It is a question of the opportune moment," Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot last week.
"The president wants first to have a clearer idea of the way in which Mr. Arafat is leaning."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has visited the White House twice since his election in February.
In his interview, Mr. Kurtzer also repeated U.S. objections to the Israeli policy of targeting suspected Palestinian terrorists, saying the Bush administration opposes what he called "preventive attacks."
However, he said, the United States generally supports Israel's efforts to defend itself, even if Washington has "tactical differences" with Mr. Sharon.
Mr. Kurtzer, who arrived in Israel in mid-July, said, "We are not necessarily in agreement with everything Israel does, but that does not signify, on the other hand, questioning Israel's right to self-defense."

Democracy charter
This is the last week to comment on a democracy charter being drafted by the Organization of American States.
The OAS is asking anyone with a desire to help influence the document to click on its Web site at www.oas.org/charter/eng/charter_en.htm .
The deadline for comments is Friday.

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