Cablegate: Scenesetter for Angela Merkel in Washington: Goals

DE RUEHRL #0802/01 1100748
R 200748Z APR 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 000802



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2022


Classified By: DCM John Koenig. Reason: 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary. Angela Merkel arrives in Washington in an
enviable position of political strength, both at home and in
the EU. However, she is conscious that her strength derives
largely from the weakness of her counterparts and other
factors beyond her control. Achieving her goals for the EU -
in the trans-Atlantic context these are focused on climate
change and the Transatlantic Economic Initiative - will
reinforce her position at home and in the EU, and serve as a
springboard to success on the larger G-8 stage. A success
for Merkel is also a success for the U.S. Even after the
German EU Presidency, we will want the Atlanticist Merkel to
remain a dominant force within the EU. In Berlin, a
successful summit will strengthen her and other
trans-Atlanticists against those who favor a policy of vocal,
public antagonism. End Summary.

Leading in the EU; Muddling Through at Home

2. (C) Angela Merkel's role as Germany's and Europe's leader
is undisputed. No other leader of a large member state is
politically fit enough to offer himself up as a leader. Her
leadership of the G-8 and Germany's intrinsic weight and
economic recovery are further boosts. At home, Merkel is not
only riding high in opinion polls (70 percent popularity
rating) and enjoying the benefits of leadership at a time of
long-sought economic growth, but has also wrong-footed her
coalition partner Social Democrats with reformist domestic
social policies. However, in both cases her apparent
strength is not entirely of her own making, but derives in
large part from her office, the weakness of her counterparts,
or from other factors beyond her control. She took the helm
of the EU at a time when progress on the European project had
largely come to a halt, when European institutions were
unsure of how or in which direction to move, and (as noted)
no alternative leaders were present. In Berlin, her coalition
partner and rival, the Social Democrats (SPD), are dealing
with weak leadership, a vacuum of ideas, and a challenge from
the left.

3. (C) Merkel has responded to these similar circumstances
with quite different tactics. In the EU, she has asserted
German and her personal leadership over the Council
Secretariat, especially with respect to her goal of

developing a road map for furthering the EU constitution.
She has sidelined Brussels by putting her own representatives
on the road to discuss the constitution in other capitals and
has weighed in personally as needed to find compromises that
keep the constitutional project moving forward. Likewise,
she has vigorously pursued the Transatlantic Economic
Initiative within the EU to remove regulatory barriers, and
has pushed for agreement on the new EU climate change and
energy initiatives. She has not succeeded in all her
undertakings -- prospects for a new EU Partnership and
Cooperation Agreement with Russia remain distant, for
example. Still, the view that we hear from Brussels is of
vigorous and effective leadership. In Berlin, Merkel is
known for her reticence to engage in aggressive politics,
preferring to stay in the background until the "correlation
of forces" is clear and then engaging to nudge the debate in
her preferred direction. Though the SPD is weak, Merkel has
been reluctant to push it hard. Her strategy appears to be
aimed at building and consolidating her own and her party's
dominance with a view toward a clear victory in 2009
elections, rather than attempting to score victories now that
could alienate significant voter groups.

Washington: What's In It for Merkel

4. (C) We sum up Merkel's goal for the U.S.-EU Summit as
being to achieve substantive progress in the U.S.-EU
relationship for its own sake and to build a lasting
foundation for her leadership in the EU and in Germany. The
substantive agenda is clear and we need not explore it in
detail here. It is focused on our political cooperation in
key areas - climate change and energy security as well as the
Transatlantic Economic Initiative. We recognize that in
these and other areas, European goals are not exactly aligned
with our own. Nonetheless, success in these areas, the
former a key concern of European publics and the latter
important to sustaining European growth, after a long period
in which trans-Atlantic relations were dominated by negative
headlines and exchanges focused on other regions, would prove
Merkel's particular competence at succeeding in Europe's key
external relationship. After success in Washington, Merkel

BERLIN 00000802 002 OF 002

can count on maintaining her position in Europe against any
incoming French President and UK Prime Minister-in-waiting
Brown. Success in Washington will also strengthen her hand
in the follow-on summits with Russia, Canada, and Japan and
sets the stage for success in G-8 summit deliberations on
climate change.

5. (C) At home, a Summit success may enable Merkel to end the
SPD's ability to use loud, public "principled" criticism of
the U.S. as a winning tactic. Gerhard Schroeder won the 2002
election with his public attacks on U.S. Iraq policy, but if
Merkel brings home meaningful agreements -- especially on
issues with domestic resonance such as climate change and
trans-Atlantic economic cooperation -- she will have shown
the German public that her policy of constructive engagement
with the U.S. brings real benefits on issues of concern to
it. Foreign policy, especially trans-Atlantic relations, is
one of the few areas where the SPD still enjoys greater
public support than does the CDU/CSU. Success in Washington
may undercut the SPD on that theme, as the CDU/CSU has
already undercut it on many domestic social themes.

A Note on Style

6. (C) Merkel is pushing for a Summit that is more than a
predictable set-piece, quickly forgotten. She looks for real
decisions to be made during the Summit discussions. This
does more than just ensure that she has something important
to do. It emphasizes her personal commitment to restoring
European-American relations and her belief in face-to-face
engagement. We recognize the difficulty of organizing
discussions in this format, but believe we too stand to gain
by such an approach.

What's In This for Washington

7. (C) Post has previously reported on Merkel's risk-averse
approach to foreign policy. We do not expect her to change
her leadership style because of success in Washington. The
real benefits for the U.S. lie in how success will affect the
public understanding of how Germany can best build a
relationship with Washington and its view of the U.S., the
changing of which is a frequent theme in conversations with
German leaders and thinkers. A successful Summit will also
reinforce our message that the U.S. and EU are natural
partners, closely bound by common interests. As a cautious
conservative in a difficult coalition, Merkel will not run
great risks for the U.S. But, if she can show the public
that cooperation with the U.S. works, the effect will be to
cut the risk she runs by cooperating with the U.S. It is a
more complex path to a closer and more effective relationship
than we would perhaps like, but our observation of Merkel and
our conversations with her advisors lead us to see it as the
best path available.

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