‘Amid worsening US-German relations, Berlin may reorient itself to Russia’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s relationship with Donald Trump seems to be worse than she had with his predecessor Barack Obama.
In comparison in 2013 when Merkel published her election program, she referred to the US as “Germany’s most important friend.” However, in the latest version published ahead of this September’s vote she merely referred to the US as a “partner.”
RT: Some critics say Merkel is not tough enough on Trump. Why have there been different attitudes to the two US administrations of Barack Obama and now Donald Trump?
Rainer Rothfuss: First of all, we have to take into consideration that Angela Merkel is campaigning at the moment. So she has to look after the voters’ attitudes, and with an anti-Trump policy program, you can rather win votes than overemphasizing friendship and partnership with the US. This is the first and most important point, and I would say it should also lead us to the consideration that it is not a policy shift that may last very long. But on the other side, it is also a considerable shift in foreign policy terms, because the US has, through their policy changes, brought along through the administration of Donald Trump, made clear that they have their own national interests also in the field of economic policies. Germany is one of the main targets of these policy changes. So the export surplus of about €250 billion that Germany has toward the US shall be reduced. This will hurt Germany. So Germany has to reorient itself toward other partners – maybe also Russia in the future.
RT: Does this change in terminology in Merkel’s election program represent a policy shift toward the US?
RR: Obviously. The change in terminology has just taken place in the election program of the CDU, the governing party. So this means that it is a policy shift, which is aiming at winning the elections on September 24, first of all, and then only afterwards we will see if the policy changes are implemented on the ground. If Germany really seeks a leadership role of a group of Western countries rivaling with the Trump administration as leader of the Western world. But I would say that Germany would be on a rather risky path, if the country thinks it could lead the Western world instead of the US. If we look at the military power of Germany in comparison to the US, Germany is negligible and is always dependent on the US, and will also be quite vulnerable in the future to any attacks of the US against German companies around the globe. We should not think, as Germans, that we could take over a great part of the leading role of the US anytime soon in the Western world. This would be a total deception and will not be successful at all.
RT: Many consider Germany to be the leader in the EU. Do you think there is a possibility that it can become independent from US politics and unite all the EU countries?
RR: ... Be it in the Southern sphere through the euro crisis, or in Eastern Europe through the refugee crisis – Germany is seen as rather a threat than a partner within the EU. This is not something Germany should be deceived about or be able to rely on really heavily. The European partners can at any time break away and rather partner with the US, for example, when it comes to security issues; or when it comes to the euro crisis, the debt crisis of Greece, Spain, and also Italy. Europe is a divided continent. Therefore, it is a quite risky path if Germany thinks that it can unite all of Europe behind its own interests and then be a severe competitor of the US.
'Europe will get its own defense initiative'
Werner Patzelt - professor of the Technical University of Dresden
RT: Do you feel there is a change in Merkel’s tone toward Washington?
Werner Patzelt: The basic issue again is that the tone, the accent, in the German-American relations has changed. Gone are the times when the German Chancellor was a very close friend of American presidents, like George Bush, the father; or Bill Clinton, because Trump is behaving quite in a different way. Leaders of states, politicians, come and go, nations and their relations remain. Therefore, this is nothing to be taken too seriously. The only exception would be Trump being reelected and really change the basic outline of American foreign policy…
Germany is the most important country in the center of Europe and is in charge of holding together the EU and contributing significantly to the European part of NATO.
This development, without any doubt, has been accelerated by the fact that Donald Trump insisted the Europeans have to pay for all military services rendered by the US. That if Europeans didn't pay the two percent share of the GDP for military equipment, they would have to pay to NATO, or to the US, whatever. This was a reaction to this decision of the American leadership – no longer to take guarantees, so to speak – unconditional guarantees for European security. This brought a development underway at the end of which Europe will have its own defensive identity, but nevertheless still remaining close ties with the US in the framework of NATO.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.