Courtesy Reuters

Europe and America: Bonn and Washington: The Strained Relationship

This year the Federal Republic of Germany is 30 years old; so are its close friendship and multiple ties with the United States. Those ties started with the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift and they have hardened through the many storms the two countries have weathered together over Berlin. Never before has Germany been tied for so long, so closely, and in so many ways to another nation.

No wonder that occasional irritations should occur in such a relationship. For a long time the Germans were the ones who had continual doubts about the steadfastness of their American friends, and got on their nerves by repeatedly asking, "Will you really stand by us?" Today the situation is rather the other way around, with quite a few Americans worried that the Germans might make secret deals with the Russians.

Part of the mutual uneasiness that occasionally crops up stems from the fact that each country's idea of the other no longer corresponds to reality. There is a certain time lag on both sides. Americans feel-often probably quite unconsciously-that we Germans should still act like well-behaved pupils with only one aim in mind: to be in tune with Washington. As long as we were focusing exclusively on the West, this was indeed the most important priority of Bonn's foreign policy. Since, in the early 1970s, in the course of our Ostpolitik we signed the agreements with Poland and the Soviet Union and thereby once again assumed our traditional place in the center of Europe, Bonn must to a certain extent also take the reactions of the East into account.

Our own ideas of the United States do not correspond to reality either. They go back to a time when, to Europeans, the United States was a powerful, self-assured nation that enjoyed boundless confidence. We know, of course, that the shocks of Vietnam and Watergate have weakened U.S. leadership and have caused uncertainty in the minds of the people. We know that self-assurance

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