This Week in Germany: Merkel Takes on Trump, Shapes Europe’s Destiny

Merkel’s explosive remarks following Trump’s visit reveal changes in the U.S.-Europe relationship.

The big news out of Germany this week is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s explosive remarks following President Donald Trump’s visit to Europe.

Merkel stated that the days of Europe being able to rely on American support are over. She reiterated the need for Europeans to take control of their own destiny. These are uncharacteristically strong remarks coming from Merkel and show that significant changes are occurring in Europe and Germany, especially in their relationship with the U.S.

There are three particular angles on these changes to note from her speech:

  1. U.S.-Europe relations really are in crisis.

Merkel’s strong comments plainly show how low America’s relationship with Europe has fallen. Before this, Merkel has characteristically been a diplomatic, discreet, even boring speaker. With this open and personal speech, Merkel has shown she is genuinely irritated.

  1. Germans want to hear about Europe’s future and how bad America is.

This speech was given in a beer tent at a Bavarian festival as part of Merkel’s appearance campaign. Her audience was German and the remarks were praised highly. This shows that rhetoric about Europe’s future and anti-Americanism will be key issues in future elections. Previously, German elections were a mundane affair, focused mainly on unions, superannuation and the welfare state. That is changing.

The German people are showing they want to hear more about Europe’s future and the sins of America. These issues especially are becoming part of national conversation. Criticizing President Trump and America will win votes in this year’s election.

  1. The termination of the transatlantic alliance marks a seismic shift in the world order.

The transatlantic alliance, nato, is 70 years old and has been the most important global relationship since World War ii. President Trump is right: Preserving the relationship between the U.S. and Europe has cost the U.S. billions. It has yielded, however, an exceptional return. The U.S. has been able to check German ambition by being the dominant leader on major issues within nato and in security forums.

Now with Europe and Germany talking about the need to go it alone, to think and behave independently and shape their own destiny, that leverage is gone. This might seem a positive thing to most. It is unwise, however, to forget what happened the last time Germany wanted to shape its own destiny