Saturday, January 31, 2004

Schroeder to visit, France to bid?

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is to visit the White House in late February and Bush is apparently contemplating allowing France and Germany bid on the next round of Iraq contracts.

Moving to further repair a rift over the Iraq war, President Bush has invited German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for a White House visit Feb. 27, officials announced Friday.

Schroeder will visit during a U.S. trip and the two leaders will discuss events in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

The White House announcement didn't mention Iraq but praised Germany as "a long-standing ally" and a "key partner in forging closer U.S.-European political and economic relations."

It said that as a "major contributor to the effort to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan, Germany has led the way in expanding NATO's international security assistance beyond Kabul."

[...]

In December, in response to U.S. urging, Schroeder said his government would seriously consider easing requirements for Iraq to repay its debt to Germany. The chancellor's administration also has indicated that it would not stand in the way if the North Atlantic Treaty Organization chose to send a peacekeeping force to Iraq this year.

The Bush administration has been urging NATO to take charge of the international peacekeeping force that is patrolling south-central Iraq under Polish command.

Still unresolved is whether the administration will permit German companies to bid for prime reconstruction contracts in Iraq. The Pentagon said in December that Germany, France and Russia were among numerous countries excluded from the bidding.

Since then, U.S. and European officials have signaled that the Bush administration is ready to give French and German companies clearance to take part in the next round of bidding. But no decision has been announced.

I'm glad that the US and Germany can patch things up, given that Germany has been a large help in Afghanistan. However, I don't know why the US would want to open up Iraq contracts to France. France has made a conscientious, long term practice of impeding US foreign policy. Even prior to the Iraq war, France has seen itself, no matter how misguided, as the counterweight to US influence. (It is also for this reason that France is spearheading efforts to set up a European military alliance that would work outside of NATO and why French officials threatened other European countries who supported the Iraq war with exclusion from the UE if they persisted.) France has no intention of working with the US on anything of large significance, and I see little reason why we should give in and do them any favors.


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