The American Enigma: Berlin Unsure about a Possible President Romney

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Germans like US President Barack Obama, but what if his challenger Mitt Romney wins next week's election instead? The Republican politician is hard to read when it comes to foreign policy matters, and politicians in Berlin are asking what it would mean for German-American relations.

Berlin is concerned about what a Romney victory could mean for trans-Atlantic relations. Zoom
DPA

Berlin is concerned about what a Romney victory could mean for trans-Atlantic relations.

Germans have long since made up their minds about Mitt Romney. Only 5 percent would give him their vote if they had one, they say.

The result of the most recent poll by Forsa is far from surprising. When America votes, the German heart traditionally beats for the Democratic candidate. To many, the Republicans are suspect: cocky, Christian-conservative, narrow-minded and often hawkish -- at least according to the widespread cliché. Some 92 percent of Germans, the poll found, would vote to return incumbent Barack Obama to the White House.

They aren't allowed to cast a ballot, of course, and are damned to be observers, nervously standing on the sidelines. Obama and Romney are neck-and-neck in the polls, with just days to go before Election Day next Tuesday. And politicians in Berlin have long since begun considering the possibility that Romney may take over the reins of state.

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But what would a President Romney mean for Berlin? Frankly, politicians in the German capital aren't sure. The Republican candidate, said Harald Leibrechts, Germany's coordinator for German-American relations, is a "blank page, which makes him difficult to gauge. He is unlikely to be alone in this assessment.

Unclear Positions

Romney has portrayed himself as both a tough guy and a diplomat, but his waffling has confused people both at home and abroad. In his final debate against Obama, he took a conciliatory tone, and it appeared as though he had few policy differences with Obama in places like Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. But only a few months prior, Romney sounded completely different, declaring Russia as America's "number-one geopolitical foe."

His policies on Iran have also been cause for some concern. This summer one of his top foreign policy advisors said Romney would "respect" an Israeli decision to use force against Tehran. Furthermore, Romney's position on the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014 also remains unclear; he has expressed doubts about the time frame.

In Berlin, the Republican nominee is seen as somewhat of an enigma. Defense Minister Thomas de Maizičre, for one, is puzzled, saying during a recent NATO meeting that "no one at the table" could say how the US mission in Afghanistan would play out if there was a change in the White House. And because the allied nations plan to build their strategies around the US model, the Nov. 6 election is extremely important, de Maizičre said.

Do German leaders think that Romney would try to return the US to its erstwhile role as global police officer? "I don't believe so," says Philipp Missfelder, foreign policy spokesperson for conservatives in parliament. "The financial situation is so desolate in the US that Romney wouldn't be able to afford" such a role.

Still, in the last TV debate between Obama and Romney, the latter spoke against cuts to the military budget and in favor of building new warships. Could Romney turn back the clock to the days of Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, who was reviled in Germany? According to Missfelder, the answer is no. He isn't a bogeyman to be feared, he says, adding that many in Germany mistakenly equate him with the Tea Party movement and its isolationist approach to foreign policy. "Romney is actually a pragmatist," Missfelder says hopefully.

During the campaign, Romney has presented himself as an economic leader and there are tendencies within his party to protect the domestic market. With the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate set to be chosen next week, there is some concern that this "America first" attitude could become stronger. Indeed, Ralf Braml, an expert on US politics with the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin, anticipates protectionist tendencies to mainly eminate from the legislative branch. "Even German and European firms will have difficulties selling their products in the US," he says.

More Military Demands?

Rolf Mützenich, the foreign policy spokesman of the opposition Social Democrats in parliament, believes that a Romney victory would result in an "initial standstill and uncertainty" while the administration went through the drawn-out process of making new appointments. What's more, he fears that if Romney chooses to rely on former advisers from the Bush era, "disagreements could arise regarding not only the issues of Iran and Russia, but also when it comes to respect for the United Nations, international law and disarmament." Likewise, he holds that a Romney administration would most likely not see eye to eye with Germany and its fellow European Union nations when it comes to the global regulation of the financial markets.

Braml, the DGAP expert and author of the book "Der amerikanische Patient" ("The American Patient"), champions the thesis that American's poor socio-economic condition and growing isolationist sentiments will lead it to try to shift the burdens of military actions onto its allies. This view is shared by many in Berlin. Leibrecht, Chancellor Merkel's coordinator for German-American relations, has said that one of the possible consequences of a Romney victory would be calls for augmenting defense budgets. "That is not particularly popular with us," he said, "and we also don't support this request in light of the consolidation and cost-cutting course that has been pursued in Europe."

In any case, whether Obama or Romney wins, CDU politician Missfelder says that Germans will have to get used to one thing: "When it comes to global military actions in crisis zones, the Americans will definitely be coming to us and demanding more in the years to come."

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1. Fixed Elections
wavettore 11/01/2012
Once again, the next US presidential election will be fixed. Mitt Romney will be elected even though Barack Obama would have received more votes in the 2012 election. The political assassination will be perpetrated by Bush hiding behind Crossroads GPS, the most influential group of Neocons. The Neocons will have Mitt Romney elected to first use him and then let him fall easy prey. All blames and responsibilities will fall on the new Mormon president for the events already planned. Mitt Romney will be the spokesman for George Bush and his job inauguration is on January 21 2013. The next Israeli election will be instead on January 22 2013. These two dates are overlapped in preparation for War. The new World War of Religion is already a done deal behind the backs of all people to bring chaos and poverty and to favor in the end one New World Order. It will be just from chaos that one voice will rise with the promise to fix all and everyone. That will be the forked tongue of the New World Order. One Solution once it happens. http://www.wavevolution.org/en/humanwaves.html
2. free lunch
mae 11/01/2012
"Leibrecht, Chancellor Merkel's coordinator for German-American relations, has said that one of the possible consequences of a Romney victory would be calls for augmenting defense budgets. "That is not particularly popular with us," he said." Germany has been spending the bare minimum on defense, opportunistically leeching on the US security umbrella, so one can understand why Germans will not like it if a Romney administration tells them to stop leeching on the US. After all Germany even spends less than the Nato requirement of 2% of GDP military spending. Now they are whining that they cannot leech on the US security umbrella if Romney gets elected. Amazing!
3. Berlin has everyright to be skeptical of Romney...
LamontCranston 11/01/2012
We here in America too are every bit concerned should Romney be the President as his policies will take us all back to the George Bush years which proved to be disastrous in every policy aspect: From economics to foreign policies, both nationally, and internationally. It is sad to see how and why many Americans can vote against their own economic interests these days, especially as most are suffering from the employment situation, and the candidate Romney has never offered any policy ideas as to how to remedy this major problem, but only offers his repeated mantra of lowering taxes for the very wealthy while building up the military. We are at a crossroads here in the US, and many hope that we don't take the wrong path, again, and so soon after we just started to get back on track despite the opposition of the Republican Party fighting the President's policies 100% since he took the oath of office back four years ago.
4. Ashamed of Germany
kysmartgirl@hotmail.com 11/02/2012
I was born and raised in Germany and now I am almost ashamed to admit this. It is hard for me to imagine that anyone would prefer a lying, want-to-be Marxist dictator in the White House instead of an honorable and selfless man. It pains me to see Germany decline into a nanny state with social programs from cradle to the grave. Mitt Romney is a God fearing, honorable and successful man who will help US (the people) turn our America around and away from the socialist/communist nightmare you seem to prefer in Germany. It is shameful to see a country like Germany give away its sovereignty, its pride and its money and grovel at the feet of the EU. Personally, I prefer FREEDOM over tyranny. I am very PROUD to say that I am an AMERICAN and you can keep your bankrupted ideas that have never worked and that won’t work in the future. You do not understand what it means to have liberty and freedom but you assume to know what is good for the American people. The American People will clean house on November 6 and through the trash out. Our government works for us and not the other way around. We believe in God and the 10 commandments and our guns that kept us free. Germany, crawl back under your rock and give your support to the Nazi party and the communists. May God forgive your ignorance, Laus Deo.
5.
retarded-freak 11/02/2012
If you really know about Mitt Romney, you can see that many of his relatives live in Mexico, and many of them actually disagree with his policies. Romney's God Fearing Mormon relations have stated on camera that his policies and the US drug war in Mexico have caused more homicides than deaths in Afghanistan, and like during the Prohibition era, have created a mafia that runs drugs the way they used to bootleg liquor, thus making Mexico a dangerous poverty center, and forcing Mexicans over the border illegally. Mitt Romney is an out-of-touch figure of an out-dated era just like any Soviet Leader was from East Germany. Everything he represents is a lie from some other America. https://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3Def5YU6uaAH8
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