Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
One-on-One at Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
November 6, 2009

ZDF: As popular as Obama is in Europe and in particular in Germany, he hasn’t been able to get much support from the Europeans on some of the major points on his agenda. They’ve taken only a handful of detainees from Guantanamo, been slow to commit more support to the war effort in Afghanistan. Now that Chancellor Merkel has been reelected can we expect that the administration will be more explicit and insistent with Germans in particular now regarding Guantanamo, detainees in Afghanistan?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think Europeans have actually been very responsive to the Obama administration and highly supportive of the administration’s agenda. We’re working incredibly well together in Afghanistan where Europeans have more than 30,000 troops and are spending a lot of money and are working with us politically. On Iran Europeans have stepped up in joining us in a common strategy. A number of European countries have taken Guantanamo detainees, and others have pledged to take more. On climate change we have a very serious dialogue and Europeans are stepping up.

We never expected that just because President Obama was popular in Europe there would be a revolution in the way Europe approaches international issues, but we are very satisfied with the degree to which they’re responding to our agenda.

ZDF: The Germans were shocked that GM decided to keep Opel. They felt betrayed, even though the administration assured them they didn’t know in advance, it still goes on. To what extent will this continue to be a part of U.S.-German relations at this higher level and how?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We understand why this is such a serious issue in Germany. When jobs are at stake, especially in this economic climate, any government is going to pay very close attention to such a development that would have an impact on their jobs and an impact on the bridging loan that the German government offered to GM.

That said, the President has made clear that GM is a private company and it makes its own decisions. And the U.S. government didn’t influence it, it didn’t make this decision, it didn’t influence this decision, and it found out about it after it was made, which is appropriate.

The President of the United States is not the CEO of GM, so we’re in very close touch with our German partners. We understand how and why it’s a serious issue, but ultimately it’s a private decision by a private company.

ZDF: Do you feel that now that Merkel has been reelected that you can go forth with more assurance in the U.S.-German relations? How would you describe the U.S.-German relations 20 years after the fall of the Berlin? And should the Germans feel slighted because Obama decided he would not attend the festivities?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think U.S.-German relations are in great shape and we very much look forward to working with this new German government or this partly new German government. The President already has a very good relationship with Chancellor Merkel. Foreign Minister Westerwelle was in Washington this week and met with Secretary Clinton. We’re actually very excited about working with this government on a wide range of global issues.

Secretary Clinton departs this weekend to join Germans in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s a hugely important historic achievement. It was supported, the goal of unifying Germany was something shared by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It was transatlantic cooperation and solidarity that led to this achievement, and it led to the liberation of tens of millions of people across Europe and the ability for a number of countries in Eastern Europe to join the European Union and NATO. And Secretary Clinton is excited about going. She’s going to give a speech the night before the 9th and welcome an award on behalf of the American people, and she will have an opportunity together with other European leaders to underscore just how critically important this historic event was.

ZDF: Thank you.