BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. diplomats describe German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as arrogant, vain and critical of America, documents released on Sunday by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks showed.
The reports were part of a bundle of over 250,000 U.S. State Department documents obtained by WikiLeaks and distributed to media in the United States and Europe, and which have revealed sensitive information and candid views of foreign leaders.
The documents, published in Germany by news weekly Der Spiegel, included 1,719 diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin — which showed diplomats giving frank assessments of high-ranking politicians including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“She avoids risk and is seldom creative,” one U.S. diplomat cited by Der Spiegel wrote of the Chancellor, who was referred to as ‘Teflon Merkel’ in some reports.
“The Americans consider the chancellor to view international diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit from it domestically,” the Spiegel report added.
While the reports are candid toward Merkel, they underline overwhelmingly how U.S. diplomats find it easier to work with her than with Westerwelle, who received the harshest criticism.
He is described as having an “exuberant personality” that sometimes leads to conflict with Merkel, but little foreign policy experience and an ambivalent view toward the U.S.
“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’,” said a report written before Westerwelle became foreign minister.
Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s most popular politician, was seen in a better light: “a close and well-known friend of the USA” who did not hesitate to give the embassy insight about internal German politics.
The reports said Guttenberg told U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy that Westerwelle, not the opposition Social Democrats, was the real barrier to an increase in German troop strength in Afghanistan sought by Washington.
Murphy is quoted as welcoming information from a “young, up-and-coming party loyalist,” from Westerwelle’s Free Democrats (FDP) who gave the embassy detailed reports on party strategy.
“Excited with his role as FDP negotiations note-taker, he seemed happy to share his observations and insights and read to us directly from his notes,” Murphy was quoted as writing.
The release of the documents prompted Murphy to write letters to several German newspapers to say his embassy work was normal, and that he did not regret it even if it may make waves.
“It’s hard to say what effect it will have, but it will at the very least be uncomfortable — for my government, for those mentioned in the reports, and for me personally as American Ambassador to Germany,” he wrote in Bild am Sonntag.
Writing by Brian Rohan; editing by Ralph Boulton