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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Will Bush Meet With Schroeder in Prague?

NEW YORK -- First, U.S. President George W. Bush refused to congratulate Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany on his re-election victory, then he ignored a personal letter from the chancellor. When Bush finally took a phone call from Schr?der on Nov. 8, their conversation was businesslike and brief.

Now the question remains: Will Bush shake Schr?der's hand at a major NATO summit meeting in Prague this week?

"I'm sure they will see each other at NATO," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, said to reporters last week.

But as of now, there is no scheduled one-on-one meeting between the leaders of the United States and Germany, the most important economic power in continental Europe and the center of gravity of the alliance.

Bush is still angry that Schroeder campaigned this fall on a platform opposing a war in Iraq and was further infuriated when a minister in Schroeder's government was reported to have compared the president's tactics to those of Hitler. Administration officials readily acknowledge that the president's sense of betrayal ensures that his relationship with Schroeder, which was not easy in the best of times, will never be the same again.

"No question," a senior White House official said last week. "It will remain professional, but it's hard to imagine it being personal."

As if to underscore the change, the president's NATO calendar is filled with meetings with other European leaders.

Bush has plans to sit down one-on-one at the summit meeting with President Jacques Chirac of France, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey. Then in Russia on Friday, he is to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

White House officials say Bush is a mature leader who understands the importance of the U.S. relationship with Germany, but they acknowledge that the trouble between the president and the chancellor shows how much Bush values personal loyalty -- and demands allegiance -- in his foreign policy.

Their falling-out, diplomats say, also reflects the difficulty in establishing a bond between two sharply different men. One is an establishment-bred Republican raised in his famous father's shadow and the other is a Social Democrat who grew up in poverty without ever knowing his father and who only recently visited his grave.

German diplomats tried last week to put the best possible face on a problem that has embarrassed and irritated them. They pointed out that not only did Bush take Schr?der's call, but that Bernd Mutzelburg, Schroeder's foreign policy adviser, met at the White House with Rice on Friday.

They also emphasized that U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently received Peter Struck, the German defense minister, at the Pentagon, and declared the relationship between the two nations "unpoisoned."

In September, shortly after Germany's election, Rumsfeld had pointedly ignored Struck at a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw and afterward told colleagues that he did so to be loyal to his angry president.

"Everyone is now speaking with everyone else, and we're back in a normal working atmosphere," said Wolfgang Ischinger, the German ambassador to the United States, who last week played down the lack of a scheduled meeting between Bush and Schr?der. "There will be numerous opportunities for dragging someone into a corner for discussion."

Last week, as the leaders of NATO's 19 governments prepared for an important meeting in Prague and their invitation to seven former communist countries to join the alliance, Rice continued to brush off suggestions that the lack of a scheduled meeting, or bilateral, between Bush and Schr?der amounted to anything at all.

"There are a lot of very important countries with which we're not having bilaterals at the NATO summit," Rice said.

Even though Germany has refused to take part in a military strike on Iraq, Rice noted that the nation is set to take command of the peacekeeping force in Kabul, the Afghan capital, when Turkey relinquishes it next month.

"Let's be realistic," she said. "The Germans have done a lot in Afghanistan, in the war on terrorism there, in counterterrorism. We appreciate that very much."