The Germany Dispatches: Internal Source Kept US Informed of Merkel Coalition Negotiations
The 250,000 US State Department documents made public by WikiLeaks reveal that the US has an extensive network of informants in Berlin and was kept informed of coalition negotiations as Chancellor Merkel was forming her current government. US officials, the cables show, are skeptical of several top German politicians.
The US was kept abreast of German coalition negotiations as they took place. Here, Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats meet with Foreign Minister Westerwelle's Free Democrats in October 2009. Internal notes from the talks ended up in Washington not long afterwards.
The more than 250,000 secret documents from the US State Department show just how critical the American diplomats were of the new German government. In particular, the new Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, leader of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), is cast in a negative light. The secret reports describe him as incompetent, vain and critical of America. The US diplomats report that they face a challenge in dealing with a politician who is considered an "enigma," who has little foreign policy experience and who "remains skeptical about the US." An embassy cable from Berlin from Sept. 22, 2009 describes Westerwelle as having an "exuberant personality." That is why he finds it difficult to take a backseat when it comes to "any matters of dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel," the cable says.
The US diplomats obviously have a deep network of informants in Germany. One source in October 2009 reported frequently from the ongoing coalition negotiations to form a government between Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and Westerwelle's FDP. The informant was a "young, up-and-coming party loyalist" from the FDP, wrote the US Ambassador to Berlin, Philip Murphy, in a report from Oct. 9, 2009. The source had "offered (the embassy employee) internal party documents in the past." He was prepared to read out personal notes he had made and to hand over documents from the negotiations.
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Murphy defended this as normal diplomatic work. "We speak with people. You get to know each other, you trust people and you share your estimations." He said he was "unbelievably angry" with those who had downloaded the material. According to Murphy, his people had "done nothing wrong" and he would not "apologize for what they had done."
Editor's note: DER SPIEGEL's full reporting on the WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables will be published first in the German-language edition of the magazine, which will be available on Monday to subscribers and at newsstands in Germany and Europe. SPIEGEL ONLINE International will publish extended excerpts of SPIEGEL's reporting in English in a series that will launch on Monday.
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