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Viewing cable 08BERLIN122, WELCOME TO BERLIN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BERLIN122 2008-01-29 16:04 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy 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 
AND (D) 
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.