There's nothing quite like a spat between old friends. After German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder narrowly won re-election last week, the Bush Administration subjected him to a series of calculated snubs, punishment for a campaign in which he forcefully opposed a war in Iraq--and during which his Justice Minister (since forced to resign) reportedly compared Bush's tactics to Hitler's. One reason for the Bushies' anger, Administration sources claim, is that Schroder left a clear impression with Bush that he would eventually support the U.S. against Iraq. "Schroder looked him in the eye and lied," says one Bush aide. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer seems eager to repair the breach. He says he wants to schedule a trip to the U.S. and hopes a "window of opportunity" will open up in the next few weeks, but that sounds a lot like he has not been invited yet.
The oddity is that for all the Administration's display of pique, the result of the German election is probably as good as Washington could have hoped for. The Greens party, Schroder's coalition partner, was the big winner at the polls. Its leader, Fischer, can now be expected to have even more of a free hand in foreign policy--and of all the leading German politicians, he has the greatest feel and affection for the U.S. "I know the United States very well," he told TIME. "Bob Dylan was more important for my political orientation than Karl Marx." Moreover, Schroder's defeated opponent, conservative Edmund Stoiber, had made little secret of his desire to re-establish ties with the French on foreign policy. That would have helped marginalize British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Europe, something the Administration doesn't want to see happen to its most loyal ally.
Not that Schroder is suddenly about to become a Bush booster on Iraq. A pre-emptive war, as one in Iraq would probably be, is unconstitutional in Germany. Schroder won't back down on that. But the Germans have offered, with the Dutch, to take over joint command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, replacing Turkey, in December. "It's pretty clear that Schroder will try to be as helpful as he can to the U.S. within the constraints of his campaign promises," says a British official. But will that be enough to patch up the family quarrel? --By Charles P. Wallace and John F. Dickerson