Cablegate: Welcome to Berlin


DE RUEHRL #0122/01 0291625
O 291625Z JAN 08

S E C R E T BERLIN 000122




E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2018


Electoral Fever Puts Pressure on Coalition

1. (C) NSA Hadley: Mission Germany looks forward to
welcoming you to Berlin January 31 to February 1. Germany is
currently consumed by the aftermath of bitterly fought state
elections that took place on January 27 in Hesse and Lower
Saxony. They are being seen as barometers for next year's
nationwide vote. Although the conservative Christian
Democrats (CDU) won comfortably in Lower Saxony, the CDU
suffered a major setback in Hesse, where CDU
Minister-President Roland Koch ran a divisive election
campaign that took his party from a commanding lead in early
polls to a virtual tie with the Social Democratic party
(SPD). The country is also digesting the significance of the
unexpected political gains by the (neo-Communist) Left Party
and its entry into both Hesse and Lower Saxony parliaments.
Over the next several weeks, state and national politicians
will evaluate coalition options, none of which appear to
please any of the major parties. The CDU's poor showing in
Hesse could energize its competitors and lead to further
domestic partisanship, thereby complicating Chancellor Angela
Merkel's goal of solidifying the political center in advance
of the 2009 national elections. On the other hand, the
success of CDU Minister-President Christian Wulff's
relatively low-key, centrist re-election campaign in Lower
Saxony has been seen as a vindication of Merkel's domestic
political strategy.

2. (C) The outcome of these two state elections, and that of
the February 24 Hamburg elections, will likely reverberate in
the day-to-day functioning of the CDU-SPD coalition.
Already, Merkel's conservatives and Foreign Minister
Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Social Democrats resemble the
proverbial couple that hated each other but stayed together
for the sake of the children: the lack of any other viable
coalition options is what sustains the partnership between
the CDU/CSU and the SPD at this point. On key priorities
like Afghanistan and Kosovo (and on certain aspects of Iran),
the gap between Merkel and Steinmeier is not so wide, and
cooperation with the U.S. has not been harmed by domestic
politics. Differences are becoming more evident on some
foreign policy issues however: Steinmeier's January 17
meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, over strong
opposition from the Chancellery, is just the latest example.
Increasingly, Christoph Heusgen and the Chancellery's small
staff are being blindsided by the Foreign Ministry on policy
matters that are significant but outside the spotlight.
Overall, we can expect Merkel's government to be more
hamstrung by partisan and interagency rivalries between now
and the fall of 2009 than was the case in its first two years
in office.

Steinmeier's Evolving Political Role

3. (C) Steinmeier, who came to office with a reputation as a
technocrat, is increasingly a political rival to the
Chancellor. Like most of his predecessors, he has benefited
from the visibility conferred on the Foreign Minister. He
has become the most popular SPD politician in Germany and the
second most popular overall, trailing only Merkel. He
recently was named Vice Chancellor, was elected as one of
three national deputy chairmen of the SPD, and announced he
will run for a federal parliament seat in 2009. Steinmeier
is regarded, both within the SPD and among the general
public, as an attractive possible chancellor candidate in
2009, should SPD Chairman Kurt Beck stumble.

4. (C) With Steinmeier's evolution from technocrat to
political leader, he must cultivate much greater
rank-and-file support within the SPD. This is a particular
challenge for him, because on domestic issues he is seen as
relatively conservative. He was a key architect of Gerhard
Schroeder's economic reforms and stood by with a studied
detachment as Kurt Beck and the SPD's left wing began to roll
them back last fall. This is all the more reason for
Steinmeier to seek out foreign policy issues like arms
control and disarmament on which he can strike chords that
resonate with SPD voters (regardless of the shortcomings we
find in these ideas). Similarly, in policy toward Russia,
the former Soviet republics, and the Middle East, Steinmeier
misses no opportunity to evoke the legacy of Willy Brandt,
elevating dialog and economic engagement above open
expression of disagreement as tools of diplomacy.

5. (C) These internal factors amplify the tendency of
Steinmeier and his Foreign Office to pursue initiatives not
in harmony with the Chancellor's instincts or policy
preferences. Germany has a weak foreign policy coordination
process and the German constitution grants broad autonomy to
ministers. Therefore, the ability of the Chancellor and her
staff to rein in the Foreign Office is limited. A result is
that Germany does not always speak with a single, clear voice.

IRAN: Importance of International Cooperation

6. (S) Although Merkel and the Chancellery have more
consistently toed our common firm line on Iran, both the
Chancellery and the Foreign Office are firmly committed to
securing a third UNSCR sanctions resolution as a basis for
more biting EU autonomous measures. MFA officials called the
January 22 P5 1 Ministerial a success in demonstrating unity
among the members, both by producing a new UNSC resolution
text and by showing a unified strategic approach in dealing
with Iran. MFA officials have told us in private that EU
autonomous sanctions would not be discussed at the January
28-29 GAERC. In conversations prior to January 22, German
officials have emphasized the importance of the broadest
possible international coalition, and thus highly value
efforts to keep all members of the P5-plus-1 on board,
deploying this argument when approached about either
unilateral or EU autonomous measures. However, they point to
pressures from their business community (as well as from the
Finance and Economics Ministries) as constraints on adopting
stronger unilateral action against the Iranian regime.
Privately, senior officials in the Chancellery and Foreign
Office have expressed frustration that the NIE has
complicated international diplomatic efforts. On December 4,
FM Steinmeier said the NIE on Iran offered the chance "inject
new momentum" into the nuclear negotiations and called on all
sides not to squander this opportunity. Merkel said publicly
on January 15 that the NIE had slowed the momentum behind
further UN sanctions; she simultaneously underscored the
seriousness of Iran's nuclear activities and the need for
international solidarity.

AFGHANISTAN: Need for Broader Deployment

7. (C) Encouraging greater German involvement in Afghanistan
is a key priority of Mission Germany; we have made some
progress, but the Germans remain very reluctant about
deploying combat forces outside of the North. In advance of
the April NATO Summit, Germany will increase its involvement
in the training of the Afghan National Army and will probably
agree to take over responsibility for the 150-man quick
reaction force (QRF) in the north. We should welcome the QRF
decision, because it would represent the first German ISAF
contingent deployable on short notice (including possibly in
exceptional and temporary circumstances outside the north),
which would be a qualitatively new and significant step
toward greater involvement in kinetic operations. Secretary
Gates' recent written request to Defense Minister Jung to
deploy German Special Operations Forces (SOF) under ISAF in
the south of Afghanistan is likely to be very controversial
here, but may prove acceptable in the end if, in return, we
were to offer Germany the option of ending its current offer
of SOF for OEF. Moving the German SOF commitment from OEF to
ISAF would also have the benefit of allowing us to shift the
considerable diplomatic resources and attention we devoted
last fall to getting the German OEF mandate renewed to
activities that may yield more practical benefits, such as
pressing Germany to increase its contributions to ISAF.

8. (C) We should encourage greater German leadership in the
EUPOL effort to train Afghanistan's civilian police force.
EUPOL is led by German Juergen Scholz, and Germany
contributes more police trainers than any other EU country,
but the program has been slow to start and the planned
ceiling of 195 EU police trainers is inadequate for the job.
Furthermore, activities are not currently planned at the
district level where the need is greatest. Germany should be
urged to accelerate the deployment of EU trainers to
Afghanistan, increase the number of trainers, and broaden the
geographic range of activities.

RUSSIA: Split Approaches

9. (C) There are significant differences between the
Chancellery and the Foreign Office on Russia, which invites
Russian wedge-driving. Merkel has never shied away from
plain talk about disturbing trends inside Russia. Steinmeier
was the first foreign visitor to get a meeting with
presidential candidate Medvedev after his nomination (a
meeting with President Putin was thrown in as well). Lately,
the combination of Russian CFE suspension, backsliding on
democracy, and intransigence on Kosovo has pushed even some
in the SPD to offer criticism. Still, the Foreign Ministry
will likely continue to seek an unhelpful bridging role with
Russia, in particular on CFE and other matters related to
arms control. The Chancellery can help constrain these
impulses, but we will also need to keep up pressure among the
Quad partners as well as from other key allies (e.g. Turkey
and Norway) to make clear that German unilateral initiatives
put transatlantic solidarity at risk.

KOSOVO: Close Cooperation

10. (C) We discern very little daylight between the
Chancellor and Steinmeier on Kosovo, and there is keen
interest in working closely with the U.S. to resolve status
and seal the EU's leadership role. While the Bundestag will
engage in intensive debate following an anticipated
coordinated declaration of independence, we expect the
multiparty consensus in favor of independence and the KFOR
and ESDP missions to hold.

COUNTERTERRORISM: Building on Success

11. (C) Your visit comes at a time when U.S.-German bilateral
cooperation on security issues is as close as it has ever
been. The successful cooperation surrounding the
September 4 arrests of three individuals planning large-scale
attacks and the upcoming conclusion of a new bilateral
agreement on fingerprint, DNA and other data sharing are the
latest evidence of this trend. Furthermore, no German senior
official pushes as hard, or argues so publicly, for closer
bilateral cooperation on security issues as Interior Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble. Should the opportunity arise, you should
inform German officials that we are eager to build on our
successful record of counterterrorism cooperation and explore
how we might work together to address threats such as
European residents who seek terrorist training at overseas
camps and become jihadists in Iraq or Afghanistan.

ECONOMICS: Commitment to TEC

12. (C) Merkel highly values the U.S.-EU Transatlantic
Economic Council (TEC) -- a centerpiece of her 2007 EU
presidency -- aimed at reducing regulatory barriers to
transatlantic trade and investment. She is concerned,
however, about maintaining the momentum in the TEC and fears
that the European Commission and future EU presidencies
(including France) may lose enthusiasm for the project.
German officials also worry that a changing U.S.
Administration could derail what they regard as a highly
successful new transatlantic economic instrument; we should
emphasize our continued commitment to the TEC, and encourage
the Germans to maintain a leading role in it. The German
economy is expected to grow at only 1.7 percent this year.
Previous higher estimates were lowered due to rising oil
prices, the strength of the Euro, slower U.S. growth, and
continuing turmoil in financial markets. German economists
and business leaders are also worried about the possibility
of a national minimum wage as well as increased labor union
demands for wage increases, both of which could affect the
economy adversely. Merkel plans to highlight employment
gains -- as opposed to minimum wages -- as the focus of her
economic plan looking ahead to the 2009 national elections.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Aggressive Measures

13. (C) Chancellor Merkel and the rest of Germany's political
leadership remain serious about pursuing aggressive
international measures to meet the challenges of global
warming. Merkel has made climate change a priority of her
Chancellorship and enjoys the overwhelming domestic support
on this. Merkel's support for mandatory, targeted global
limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and an international
cap-and-trade regime reflects a deep-seated belief that only
drastic, concerted efforts on the part of the international
community can slow -- and ultimately reverse -- the human
contribution to global warming. If anything, Steinmeier
supports tougher standards. While the Germans have been
willing to consider alternative solutions, such as new
technologies for clean coal and renewables, fundamental
differences in our approaches to the issue of climate change
remain, and could lead to more public disagreement in the
future. For example, while Germany will send a delegation to
the January 30 Major Economies Meeting (MEM), the German
Government remains skeptical about the value that the Major
Economies Process (MEP) adds to the UNFCCC track. The Germans
are particularly concerned about the need to avoid
duplication of effort in the various other climate
change-related forums, including the UNFCCC and the G-8.

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