Suzanne Fields

"George Bush Does Trinwillershagen" is a headline writer's nightmare, but the Germans are pleased that the president will meet their prime minister, Angela Merkel, in the heartland of her constituency. Trinwillershagen is a village as quaint as it sounds, once a frequent destination of communist biggies seeking a model rural village deep in the East German boonies. This week, George and Angela will chow down on barbecue -- wild boar, German style -- with her constituents.

The president will then discuss several contentious international issues with the prime minister in Stralsund, a neighboring medieval town, described by the German press as the rough equivalent of Crawford, Texas. It's not a ranch, and not very rough, but an office and apartment in the prime minister's parliamentary electoral base on the Baltic coast. If the German wall had not come tumbling down, she might still be a practicing physicist there rather than the most powerful woman in Europe.

This meeting promises to be far different from the president's "wurst visit" to call on Gerhard Schroeder, the prime minister who went out of his way to demonstrate that he was no friend of the president, all to exploit anti-American attitudes then rampant in the fatherland. Angela and George have been described as "the odd couple," a fresh partnership reflecting the change in United States-German relations, based on growing mutual admiration and personal chemistry born of common concerns.

The Germans still won't support the president on Iraq, but Iran is another matter entirely. The Iranian threat has transformed Germany's naive idealism into something approaching reluctant realism. Germans, according to a Pew poll of global attitudes, express the highest level of alarm over the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. For the moment, it's not even a partisan issue. "Germans know how dangerous a madman at the helm can be," Gert Weisskirchen, a foreign policy expert for the Social Democrats, tells der Spiegel magazine. The Germans, in fact, are likely to give strong support for sanctions if Iran rejects Western incentives to put aside nuclear ambitions. Germany, a staunch supporter of Israel in a continent awash in resurgent anti-Semitism, would likely be quick to defend the Jewish state if it were threatened by Iran.

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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