The Case Against the Hawks

The trans-Atlantic alliance survives. That’s the main message Angela Merkel and Barack Obama want to let the world know. The American president will respect the latest German-French diplomatic efforts, but will still leave all options on the table — including supplying Ukraine with “deadly defensive weapons” as the Republican-majority Congress, as well as an increasing number of Democrats, favor. On the other hand, the German chancellor has made it known that if the negotiations in Minsk are not successful, she is open to considering an increase in pressure on Russia.

Obama spent several minutes congratulating and complimenting “Angela” and called her a “close friend and partner.” He congratulated her on everything imaginable, even for things that happened long ago: For example, on her third re-election as chancellor and Germany’s fourth World Cup champion football title. He told her he is happily looking forward to their coming meeting in Bavaria, and he repeatedly called her by the first name, Angela.

It’s all about showing the world that they pull together toward shared goals, that neither Vladimir Putin nor the hawks in Washington can divide them. It’s apparent to Obama that Russia has “violated just about every commitment they made in the Minsk agreement.” In Washington, where think tank members and former Democrats now beat the drums for weapons to Ukraine, the president is one of the few still voicing dissent for sending arms. Even his own nominee for secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, told Congress he was leaning toward sending arms to Ukraine.

Chancellor Merkel delivered an impassioned plea for diplomacy. In the run-up to the coming talks between herself, François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko, scheduled for next Wednesday, she said there is never a guarantee that something diplomatic will work before the fact, but added that if something didn’t work, they would try again because they were politicians, and after all, that’s what politicians were supposed to do.

That’s the message she is sending above all to the hawks in Washington. One of them, Texas senator and potential presidential candidate Ted Cruz, said that arms deliveries to Ukraine were long overdue and added, “What we are seeing is when America doesn’t lead, Europe cannot be expected to step into the breach. What is missing is the president of the United States.” Another senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain, called Chancellor Merkel “stupid” a few days before her arrival in Washington and compared her Ukrainian policies with the appeasement policies used with the Nazi regime before World War II began.

Merkel will not meet with congressional representatives this time after meeting with Obama. She will meet instead with female political and business leaders – perhaps to make the point that, yes, women can make a difference.

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