WikiLeaks just released 250,000 secret US State Department documents in what promises to be a huge headache for the Obama administration. The WikiLeaks site is down due to a denial of service attack, so I cannot access anything first hand. The Web-site of Der Spiegel, however, has published several dispatches concerning US-Germany relations. One cable, in particular, which was sent shortly after the Black-Yellow coalition was formed in the fall of 2009, contains some pretty insightful views on Guido Westerwelle and his fitness as Germanys foreign secretary. They depict an "aggressive" politician who is short on substance, but who habors resentment against Washington due to perceived personal slights by the Americans:
Opinion polls show that Westerwelle's public image has improved substantially in the last year in particular. But, as one well known foreign policy analyst in Berlin told PolOff, he lacks the gravitas and is seen as too opportunistic to be trusted as foreign minister. At the conclusion of his DGAP speech, several MFA desk officers remarked to PolOff that they were not yet persuaded that Westerwelle had the "foreign and security policy expertise necessary" to become a successful Foreign Minister, although they had no doubts about his ability to get up to speed quickly. There was a consensus among desk officers -- driven, perhaps, by political bias -- that Westerwelle was arrogant and too fixated on maintaining his "cult of personality." Negative reaction to his DGAP speech reflects the foreign policy community's skepticism of Westerwelle.
In what is perhaps the most damaging insult imaginable - from an American perspective - the US Embassy officer compares Guido Westerwelle to Dan Quayle, a laughing stock in Washington. Quayle once tried to compare himself to John F. Kennedy:
Like Dan Quayle in 1992, Westerwelle wants to compare himself to his mentor, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, but in the eyes of the foreign policy community, he is no Genscher. Nevertheless, Westerwelle's world-views have to a large extent been shaped by "Genscherism."
I don't consider the comments about Angela Merkel too damaging. The "Teflon-Merkel" remark merely reveals a grudging admiration for the chancellor's considerable political skills.
Undoubtedly, there will be much to discuss from the leaked documents concerning US-European relations once the WikiLeaks site is back up and we have access.