Steady drum of Trump’s anti-Germany remarks raises questions
BERLIN (AP) — The steady drum of anti-German rhetoric from the United States, one of the country’s traditionally closest friends, has people wondering whether to get ready for a messy breakup.
First, it was then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign trail contention that Chancellor Angela Merkel was “ruining Germany” with her decision to allow in more than 1 million asylum-seekers in 2015 and 2016. Then, as president, came his repeated criticism of the German export surplus with a focus on its popular car brands like Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen, and the accusation Berlin is shirking its NATO obligations by spending too little on defense.
So everyone thought they were prepared for Trump’s arrival at the NATO summit, but were still taken aback by his attack on Germany’s energy policy and joint gas pipeline venture with Moscow, which he said it leaves Berlin “totally controlled” and “captive to Russia.”
“Trump at NATO Summit: It’s not just bad, it’s a catastrophe,” the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung headlined its story online.
On the streets of Berlin, people were just shaking their heads.
“A lot of porcelain’s being broken at the moment and I think, unfortunately, it will take a while until things that have been broken are fixed again,” said Sven Halldorn, 52.
“He should concentrate on his own country before he judges others,” added Nicole Urban, 26, echoing a widespread sentiment among Germans.
Many of the issues are not new; former President Barack Obama, who enjoyed a close relationship with Merkel, was critical of the German export surplus, its defense spending and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia.
But Trump’s increasingly vitriolic tone on those issues, plus his criticism of Merkel’s migration policies and his decisions to pull out of agreements dear to Germany like the deal meant to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and the Paris climate accord, have many questioning what comes next.
“It’s an attitude that long term for the German-American relationship is anything but helpful,” lawmaker Rolf Muetzenich, a foreign affairs expert with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition Social Democrats, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
Backing up a step, however, it may be premature to write off the German-American or NATO alliance as some pundits have already been speculating about, said Jessica Gienow-Hecht, a historian of international relations at Berlin’s Free University.
“How can you make that point with the little evidence that you have and the fact that there is no alternative planning on the table?” she said. “To me, this is almost like propaganda, it really tells you how far out we’re getting here and what sort of an influence that Trump is able to exert.”