Merkel sides with unlikely allies over Syria

时间:2019-11-16  作者:檀庳焕  来源:betway必威体育  浏览:14次  评论:60条

Gassing in wartime is, of course, a touchy subject in . There's Zyklon B and Auschwitz, to be sure, and there's an older story, the slaughter of Europe's youth in the trenches west of Brussels almost 100 years ago.

Then, too, the Germans were the first if not the only ones to resort to industrial warfare, using poison gas to annihilate the enemy in the first world war, horrors that led directly to the international chemical weapons ban agreed in the 1920s and now being cited as one reason for international intervention in .

But if the use of chemicals to kill children in their sleep resonates particularly grimly in Germany, the government of appears at a loss over how to respond. She is far from isolated in resisting American pressure for a military campaign. She is, two weeks before her election, nonetheless in a tricky position trying to manoeuvre to keep on side with her natural allies while actually agreeing in substance with the opponents of those allies.

We have been here before. It was a diplomatic disaster that entailed a lot of damage limitation. Two years ago as the French and the British, with discreet US support, geared up to topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, .

Merkel joined the Russians and the Chinese on the abstention side, against her Nato allies, the Americans, British and French.

It was a bit of a watershed. Copious efforts were made to blame the mess on last-minute diplomatic bungling in New York and crossed lines of communication. But the damage was done.

Merkel has also been consistent in her opposition to any kind of military intervention in the Middle East, opposing Anglo-French moves all this year to change the EU sanctions regime on Syria to facilitate the flow of weapons to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

The crisis over how to respond to the 21 August Ghouta attack exposed new fissures at the weekend at the summit in Saint Petersburg and at the meeting of EU foreign ministers with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, in Vilnius in Lithuania.

On Friday, when the Obama team got 10 other countries to sign a declaration blaming Assad for the gas attack and demanding a strong response, Germany was the only one of five EU countries that did not sign, unlike the UK, France, Italy, and Spain.

By Sunday, Merkel had changed her mind and decided to join the signatories after all. But it was the others who were to blame.

"I decided that Germany would only sign once we managed to find a common European position," she told an election rally in Düsseldorf on Sunday, announcing the abrupt U-turn.

The German prevarication was already causing international ripples.

"Can someone please explain why Germany was the only major western country not to sign onto statement on Syria at the G20," tweeted Ivo Daalder, until recently the US ambassador to Nato in Brussels.

When told Merkel had changed her mind, he added: "Good. Better late than never. I understand Iraq war trauma. My worry was Libya repeat."

But the wobbles in Berlin were on full view a couple of weeks earlier. In the wake of the Ghouta attack, the German foreign ministry issued a statement announcing that if the Syrian regime was found to be responsible "Germany will be among those calling for action to be taken".

Within a hour that statement had been binned and a new one drafted. Instead, Germany would "consider that some consequences will have to be drawn".

Merkel claimed improbably she did not know the other Europeans were backing Obama in the G20 declaration. If true, she has a problem with her staff and her advisers. And she argued she had to wait for the EU statement in Vilnius.

But the two statements are quite different. The G20 formula marks the maximum that the White House could get, blaming Assad and threatening a military response. The Vilnius declaration bears Berlin's imprint, with the emphasis on waiting for the UN inspectors to report on the gas attack and stressing that Assad should possibly be indicted internationally for war crimes and brought before the international criminal court.

That will take a while. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, for example, was indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal during the Kosovo campaign in May 1999. It was more than two years before he was extradited, only after losing the war and then being deposed at home.

That Kosovo campaign, of course, marked Germany's return to the use of military force internationally, with the Luftwaffe taking to the skies over for the first time since 1945.

It was a Greens foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, who accomplished that, declaring forcefully that Germany had to act in concert with its allies because of the Auschwitz argument – "never again".

It is difficult to conceive of a similar willingness to project military force coming from Merkel and her Christian Democrats.

Der Spiegel says that the international doubts raised about Merkel in Russia will overshadow the final crucial fortnight of campaigning. Perhaps. But none of the main parties want to get dragged into a war in Syria, nor is there public support for intervention.

Merkel will not lose votes for being less than gung-ho over Syria. But she is also not endearing herself to her peers among the main western powers, again preferring Putin to Obama but trying not to say so too loudly.

The chancellor might change her tune once she is re-elected, of course. But her record on these issues suggests this is unlikely.