After mending fences with the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, President Obama might want to keep his diplomatic tools handy for his stopover here, to repair his increasingly strained relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A rift has quietly opened up between Germany and the United States, marked by official statements of harmony and private grumbling. It is not an outright crisis in relations, but there are underlying tensions and disagreements on matters ranging from the global economic crisis to the future of inmates held at Guantánamo Bay. On a more basic level, there is a sense that the Obama administration is ignoring the needs and counsel of longtime allies. Divided Germany was once at the center not only of the cold war, but of American foreign policy as well, which is no longer the case. Yet the United States can ill afford to alienate Europe's largest economy and its most important intermediary in the strained relationship with Russia. "They're not angry, they're not anti-Obama or anti-American," said John C. Kornblum, a former United States ambassador to Germany and now a business adviser in Berlin. "But they're confused by the wave of criticism which has been sent at them by the administration and people close to the administration.
"It's not that they don't like him," he said. "They just feel like things aren't working, like the levers of government are not being engaged to make issues run smoothly."
It's hard to run a government smoothly when you haven't filled all of your positions in your administration, and those that he does appoint are mostly gaffe prone and incompetent.