In Challenge, Opportunity
Donald Trump’s presidency poses a great threat to Germany, but there are major opportunities too.
President Trump’s retreat from the world and criticism of the EU is piling pressure on Europe. He wants the EU to collapse under that pressure—but it could force Europeans to unite. After Mr. Trump’s Times and Bild interview, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated, “I think that we Europeans have our destiny in our own hands, and I would very strongly argue that we all stand together.” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “The best response is European unity.”
Talk of nato’s obsolescence is encouraging Europe to pursue its own military force—something Germany has pushed for years. Without America’s security guarantee, the EU “can address its current geopolitical realities only by developing its own capacity to project political and military power,” explained former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Project Syndicate, January 5).
“Hostile inauguration speech,” tweeted the EU Parliament’s lead negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt. “We can’t sit around & hope for US support & cooperation. Europe must take its destiny & security in its own hands.”
Europe was already working on military union with a new seriousness. Mr. Trump’s election is accelerating those efforts.
President Trump’s move toward Russia also contains opportunities for Germany.
No American détente with Russia can last. The two countries have almost no interests in common. Their rivalry has played out throughout history—it’s the classic great land power versus great sea power competition that pit Sparta against Athens, Rome against Carthage and Britain against France. Such powers never get along; they have too many clashing interests. The only interest Russia and America share is opposition to Islamic terrorism, but Putin’s support of Iran reveals his lack of commitment on this front.
Russia and Germany have more common interests, which is why they have forged agreements throughout history. Mr. Trump is paving the way for Germany to move closer to Russia—an alliance Berlin could use to great advantage in the long run.
At the same time, America’s rapprochement with Russia is pushing Eastern Europe closer to Germany. This region knows it cannot stand up to Russia alone, and has spent the last few years struggling to find a patron. With America under Mr. Obama unwilling to confront Russia, and with Europe struggling to devise a coherent foreign policy, the region has been trying to decide which is the least bad option. An America that cozies up to Russia makes Germany—with its much weaker military and its history of striking deals with Russia—that least bad option. Watch for Eastern Europe to shift toward Germany.