German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of George Bush’s celebrated new best buddies on the world scene, is now finding out what Tony Blair took years to learn: Partnership with Bush is a one-way street.
As leaders of wealthy nations converged Wednesday at a Baltic resort for their annual summit meeting, the White House held firm against long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, effectively blocking a major priority of the meeting’s host, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
Merkel is one of the closest allies of President George W. Bush in Europe, and the two emerged from a working lunch Wednesday attempting to present a united front. But the German chancellor did not look pleased as she conceded that more work must be done before the Group of 8 nations can reach agreement on how they will address climate change.
Merkel had the pleasure of being humiliated and condescended to by the American president, and rather publicly at that.
On climate change, the White House has said it would hold firm against concrete long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a major priority for Mrs. Merkel. After lunch with Mr. Bush on Wednesday, Mrs. Merkel seemed to concede — without explicitly saying so — that her climate change plan was off the table.
“There are a few areas here and there we will continue to work on,” she said, standing side by side with the president outside an elegant white castle on the grounds of the Kempinski Grand Hotel. When Mr. Bush turned to her and said he has “a strong desire to work with you” on the issue, the chancellor pursed her lips.
Merkel – much like Blair – is hobbled in her desire to effect meaningful climate change policy by expectations of seriousness, collegiality, and reasonable accommodation. That makes for a sucker’s bet when dealing with the Decider.
Merkel, who had a career in physics before entering politics, has worked hard to bring the global warming issue to the fore. For her, much is at stake, as she defends her plan over Bush’s, without entering into a bigger public dispute.
“She does not want to make this a public spat,” said Julianne Smith, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But she was elected in part because she’s a scientist, she has a very strong position on this, and Germans are huge fans of any effort to cope with climate change. So for her own public, she has to show that she’s being a bit forceful with the United States and she’s putting her foot down.”
Lots of luck with that, Madame Chancellor.