- The Washington Times - Friday, November 29, 2002

BERLIN German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who campaigned for re-election by opposing the U.S. campaign against Saddam Hussein, has begun spelling out limits of German involvement in any military action against Iraq.

Mr. Schroeder told reporters Wednesday that it remained "clear as glass" that Germany would not participate in any military attack.

Responding to a U.S. request to more than 50 allies for help in a war against Iraq, Mr. Schroeder said German bases and airspace would be available in a U.S. military operation against Iraq, but declined to say whether Germany would help rebuild Iraq after a war.

Germany would guarantee "overflight rights for the United States and other NATO member states that want them, smooth transit for troops of the United States and the NATO members [and] use of U.S. military installations in Germany by the United States and the members," he said.

Mr. Schroeder's comments to reporters come after a symbolic handshake of reconciliation with President Bush at the recent NATO summit in Prague.

U.S.-German relations have been under strain since Mr. Schroeder made opposition to the war in Iraq a major issue in his re-election campaign in the fall, vowing to adopt a "German way."

As a major economic power in a unifying Europe, Germany has come to expect a certain level of influence, or at least consultation, from the United States regarding world affairs.

But Mr. Schroeder's willingness to take on the United States for domestic political reasons threatens to weaken Germany's voice outside its borders, according to analysts.

"They're frustrated now that they're not taken seriously," said Jeffrey Gedmin of the Aspen Institute in Berlin. "They are being treated as being irrelevant because they are working hard to make themselves irrelevant."

Three generations after the end of World War II, many Germans have developed a strong objection not only to war, but also to the way power politics are employed around the globe.

"What they've done is tried to moralize weakness," said John Kornblum, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany who is chairman of Lazard & Co. in Berlin.

"The Americans are supposed to make peace, and we hate them for it," said Michael Rutschky, a prominent left-wing intellectual in Berlin.

When difficult international situations come up, "We criticize the Americans if they don't interfere, and we criticize them if they do interfere," he said.

Even some top-level German officials have expressed regret at the way Mr. Schroeder handled Iraq.

"I would have used a more different shading than our chancellor," said Karsten Voigt, who is close to Mr. Schroeder and serves as the coordinator of German-American cooperation in the German Foreign Office. "But I would not have won the election."

Mr. Voigt said Mr. Schroeder risked his political future when he called for a vote of confidence in the German parliament to push through German participation in the U.S.-led operation in Afghanistan.

Germany has about 10,000 troops overseas, helping patrol the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, keep peace in the Balkans and patrol the seas off the Gulf of Aden. It has sent about 100 special-forces troops to Afghanistan.

"The support for development aid in Germany is higher [per capita] than in the United States," Mr. Voigt said. "It's not a question of engagement, it's a question of what type of engagement is important."

Many Germans express discomfort with the United States' ability to act with impunity around the globe, even though they acknowledge that U.S. power has allowed peace to flourish in Europe.

"Once you start accepting that one nation however big or mighty it is decides itself what to do outside of institutions, frankly, we enter a slippery road," said Klaus Segbers of the East European Institute in Berlin.

There have been some policy gestures that have highlighted areas of agreement between Berlin and Washington.

In the coming year, Germany is to take over command of U.N. peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan for a six-month period.

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