Germany plays catch-up after being on sidelines of NATO's Libya campaign
Germany's government now appears eager to make loans, unfreeze Libyan assets, and commit itself to aid for Libya, but a growing list of critics is saying it's all too little, too late.
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Germany voted in March against a United Nations no-fly zone, withdrew naval resupply vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, and took an occasional we-told-you-so attitude as the Libyan operation dragged on.
The German decision not to participate as Benghazi was on the verge of being routed, left Europe, the US, and NATO without its biggest ally. It was described as a surprise for a country historically careful not to isolate itself with allies.
Yet Europe’s biggest nation now appears eager to make loans, unfreeze Libyan assets, and commit itself to aid, partly as a recompense for what is being decried in Germany as a major policy blunder.
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Yet whether Germany’s newfound attitude is enough to quell bitter feelings at a time when it is criticized for a lack of ardor for European unity is unclear.
Even former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who presided over German unification in the 1990s, weighed in today with a strikingly critical assessment of a German drift from its former “dependable” role.
“Germany’s hasn’t been a reliable power for several years – neither domestically nor abroad,” Mr. Kohl told the prestigious journal Internationale Politik, “I have to ask myself, where does Germany actually stand today and where does it want to go?”
The March 11 UN Security Council vote on Libya was an 11th-hour initiative by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose moves are considered by the studious Ms. Merkel to be too often erratic and cavalier.
In New York, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle argued a classic German pacifist line, that the no-fly zone was a bad idea, messy, an over-step with unforeseen consequences that would harm civilians.
Still, many in the German foreign policy establishment rebelled: "The decision is a serious mistake of historic dimensions, with inevitable repercussions," said former German Defense Minister Volker Rühe.