Missile Defense and Other Issues
May 9, 2000
Neue Zuercher Zeitung
Joschka Fischer in Washington
The routine visit by German Foreign Minister Fischer in Washington is overshadowed by trans-Atlantic dissension over missile defense and by denied rumors about a replacement for the German Ambassador's post in Washington. The personal understanding between Fischer and Albright appears as good as it was before.
R. St. Washington, May 8
In the course of his official visit to the United States, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has had meetings with Secretary of State Madeliene Albright and, on Tuesday, will be received in the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense William Cohen. As could be concluded from a joint press conference held by Albright and Fischer, the issue of missile defense is on the forefront of the meetings in the State Department.
While Fischer is concerned about deteriorization in Russian-American relations in the event a missile defense system is installed, Albright repeated that the anti-missile shield which will extend over Alaska is not directed at Russia, but against uncontrollable, so-called "rogue" states. The Secretary of State also recalled that the decision of the Clinton administration about the installation of the system will not be made until November, and that further tests are predicted for the summer. For a positive decision, she said, four criteria must be fulfilled, and not all of them rely solely upon sheer feasibility.
Several days ago former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, aligned with the Democrats, warned the Clinton administration in an article in the Washington Post about making a final decision in the issue of missiles. He said that there was currently no strategic necessity for such a decision and that the diplomatic effects upon relations to Europe, to Russia and to China would be negative. He said that Clinton should leave the decision up to his successor and not make missile defense into an internal political question of prestige. Foreign Minister Fischer stressed repeatedly before the press that this was to be regarded as a national decision of the United States; he was trying to publicly note his distance in this manner. Germany does not stand alone in Europe in regard to its skepticism about a National Missile Defense.
Other topics of discussion were the ever appearing problem of greater efforts at defense on the part of Europe. Washington is skeptical about the European Defense Initiative diverting energy from NATO. The Europeans answer that they had never been against taking on greater responsibility. In all the differences in the facts at hand, both foreign ministers appeared to maintain a good tone towards each other. Fischer expressed his appreciation for the United States as Germany's most important ally, and Mrs. Albright expressed her hope for a strong Germany in a strong Europe.
It can been seen from data published last evening on the German defense budget (at 1.5 percent of the gross social product the smallest of the large European countries) that German preparedness to act does not quite meet the level which is being conceptualized here. At least there are bilateral themes with a human touch on the fringes or in the forefront of the visit. That is where the Federal Republic justifies its politics against Scientology. The newspapers have also reported sporadically on the concerns of divorced American parents for the care of their overseas children. Minister Fischer took note of a newspaper article which criticized the practice of the German courts, but could not take a comprehensible position on the case.
Also in the forefront of the meetings were speculations about a transfer of the current German ambassador in Washington, Juergen Chrobog, to the Foreign Office as State Secretary. He denied that emphatically.
German Scientology News