With Germany now united, rich and often angry, and with the Soviet threat largely over, it’s Germany, not the U.S., that seems to have altered its view of this once-solid relationship.
Does Merkel really believe that if her nation cuts huge deals with NATO’s historically greatest threat, polls as the most anti-American country in Europe, and still refuses to honor its promises to increase defense spending, Germany still deserves a large American commitment of 36,000 troops to anchor its defense?
There is one caveat that the Trump administration and other European countries might consider.
According to its founders, NATO was created for three reasons: to keep the always aggressive Russians “out” of Europe, to keep the often isolationist Americans “in” to help protect it, and to keep the supposedly restless Germans “down” in order to avoid a replay of their invasions that ignited both world wars.
In other words, the huge defense commitment to an often ungracious Germany over eight decades was not just envisioned to create a central base from which to protect Europe from ancient Russian ambitions, but also to remind Germany itself of its checkered past.
That third mission seems ossified and silly now. But it is not entirely forgotten, and it may explain why many in Europe — and some in Germany itself — are worried when any American soldiers leave Germany.