Iraq's Odious Debts

Schröder lists criteria for ‘yes’ vote on Iraq

Elise Kissling
F.A.Z. Weekly
May 28, 2004

Seeking to prevent another fallout with the United States over Iraq, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has chosen his words carefully this week when asked about his potential support for the new U.S. Iraq resolution and the role of NATO after the Iraqi transitional government takes control at the end of June.

The Germany chancellor has signaled that under certain conditions he would approve the resolution, which the United States presented to the United Nations Security Council on Monday. But he has also made clear that Germany would not send troops to the war-torn country even with the blessing of the U.N., although he said he would not block a NATO decision to do so.

Listing the main criteria for a “yes” vote, Schröder said in Berlin on Monday: “The future transition government in Baghdad must have access to the oil reserves in its own country. It is also important for the provisional government that assumes responsibility on June 30 to gain control of [the country’s] security forces.” Schröder also said the same criteria would have to be fulfilled before Germany would forgive Iraq’s debt.

Echoing the chancellor’s position, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, “I think a consensus is doable, possible and desirable.” His U.S. counterpart, Colin Powell, had given him a broad outline of the U.N. resolution over the weekend.

The chancellor has broad support for his position within his own party and that of his government’s junior coalition partner, the Greens. Reinhold Robbe, Social Democratic military expert and chairman of the Bundestag defense committee, said Germany may offer major humanitarian aid. But military aid was “fundamentally out of the question,” he told Deutschland Radio on Wednesday. Another Social Democrat, Hans-Ulrich Klose, said the U.N. must assume “a leading role” and demanded that the transition government have full authority from the start.

Some observers see the chancellor’s position as part of his government’s new conciliatory approach toward the United States after the transatlantic meltdown last year.

But although Schröder and Fischer have both given the United States a great deal of verbal support in recent weeks, their stance is unchanged from last autumn and spring when the duo refused to support a U.N. resolution for a U.S.-led war against Iraq and condemned the Bush government’s policy of preemptive war.

This forced the United States to rely on a “coalition of the willing” when it invaded Iraq. By saying he would not block a NATO decision to send troops while at the same time stressing that Germany would not participate, Schröder has again sent the message that the United States must fall back on a voluntary military alliance when preparing its military strategy for the second half of this year.

The transatlantic political rift, which began to open in the autumn of 2002 when Schröder said categorically that he would not support a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, widened last spring when the German government spearheaded an initiative to form a European military general staff. These plans were finalized last autumn when the European Union set up a joint military planning initiative which it described as the core of a future European army.

The EU insisted that its military planning initiative was not directed against the United States. But France and Germany have worked hard to anchor a joint military body in the planned European Union constitution and have pursued plans to create transnational armaments companies.

During the Cold War, the mutual threat of Soviet communism made collective security under the U.S.-led NATO alliance the only credible strategy for the countries of western Europe. The parting of the Iron Curtain more than a decade ago and, especially, the new U.S. policy challenged this status quo in the 1990s, with the EU focusing on its own military forces.

But after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, NATO members signed a declaration promising to intervene on a global scale to fight threats when the backing of the United Nations could be procured.

NATO also followed a U.S. proposition to create a NATO reaction force, which weakened the role of the European Union’s own rapid reaction forces.

Although EU leaders have depicted the new general staff as a complement to the Atlantic alliance in meeting “the challenges of the 21st century,” rather than as a rival to NATO, observers said it was part of a larger attempt by France and Germany to reverse the NATO declaration of 2002. 

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