Actually, President Obama would love Germany because Germany loves him: 87 percent of Germans would elect him, 79 percent find his administration good — in spite of Guantanamo. Those are numbers Obama can only dream of at home. Yet this Tuesday, the American president is coming to a land that has remained foreign to him.
Obama has been to Germany only once as president, in 2009, after his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo. He avoided the capital, only visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp and staying briefly in Dresden. This fleeting visit was planned primarily as an action to reassure his loyal Jewish voters after his appearance in Cairo.
Obama’s relationship to Chancellor Merkel is frequently described as frosty. That is an exaggeration of the actual situation. Contrary to his charismatic outside appearance, Obama is a wary person, just like Merkel. Where the chancellor is a sober scientist, Obama remains the constitutional expert from Harvard, enamored of the literary.
His tendency to self-glorification and the messianic nature attributed to him have always appeared suspect to Merkel. It is now legendary how she did not allow the young senator to speak at the Brandenburg Gate in 2008 and let him circle the chancellery with his motorcade for 30 minutes when he wanted to invite himself before the appointed time.
A Pacific, Not European, President
All the same, Obama’s answer to the question about with which national leader he worked most closely with was Merkel. Both have found a resilient working relationship according to estimations from Merkel’s sphere.
Obama is a Pacific, not European, president. Born in Honolulu, raised in Indonesia, he is closer to Asia than Paris and Berlin. And Obama is — like every president before him — not only commander-in-chief of the world police but, above all else, the foremost trade representative of the U.S. economy. The most lucrative markets are located in China, India and their neighboring nations, not in crisis-shaken Europe. That is how he feels, thinks, acts.
This does not mean we Germans must become faint-hearted. In many questions of world politics, such as Syria, Obama needs, if not German, then still European support. Especially in foreign policy, the Nobel Peace Prize winner — crowned too early — has proven to be a soufflé, from which the air quickly escapes.
Therefore he needs Europe and, at least indirectly, Germans, the not-all-that secret central power of the continent. Today, that is the leverage to exert influence on the U.S.