Germany: We Europeans must Depend on Selves, not Trump’s USA

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, certainly knew what she was doing when she made her otherwise cautious statement.

“The times,” she said, “in which we can entirely depend on others, are gone. This, I have experienced in the last few days. We Europeans must take our destiny in our own hands.”

The adverb is important here. “Entirely depend on” is not the same as “depend on.” She is signalling that Europe has in the past perhaps been completely dependent on the US in certain regards. Under Trump (the meaning of her “experience” in the the “last few days”), Europe can no longer afford to do so.

Her annoyance is understandable. Europe faces dire challenges.

One is climate change, which Trump refused to help with.

Another is the refugee crisis. Since many refugees go north from the drought-stricken Sahel, which has been desertifying under the impact of human-caused climate change from toxic carbon dioxide emissions, these two crises are inter related.

The European economy, and especially employment rates, still has not recovered from the 2008-2009 crisis. Instead of promoting trade, Trump is talking up protectionism. He called Germans “very wicked” for running a trade surplus with the US and selling cars to Americans. Having Trump plastered on front pages next to quotes about evil Germans while Merkel was meeting with him at the G7 must have been poisonous.

Then Germany was convinced by Obama to slap sanctions on Russia because of its unilateral annexation of Crimea, something that had not happened in post-war Germany and which looked sinister to Western Europe. Trump seems to be in Russia’s back pocket, so that the whole sanctions policy is up in the air. (Frankly German interests were getting tired of it even last year.). Germany will have to make its own decisions about how to deal with Vladimir Putin, and can no longer simply follow America’s lead, given that America’s lead now has all the consistency of a terrified bumblebee.

The good news is that you wouldn’t want European leaders blindly following Trump’s need. And at least there will be some adults acting independently on the world stage.


Related video:

IBTimes UK: “Angela Merkel: Europe must take its fate in its own hands”

17 Responses

  1. Merkel said this during a campaign appearance in a bavarian beer tent. And even there she was very, very careful with her statement. Or in other words: Don’t believe it.
    Merkels take on Trump is the take she has on each and every problem she has ever been confronted with: Just wait till it somehow gets better. Trump won’t be president forever afterall and maybe sanity will return the white house one day.
    When it comes to the US, Merkel is the most subservant german chancellor in history. Her remarks are an attempt to appease the unusually strong criticism of the USA in recent weeks. But expecting her to make any changes, or, in the words of Edward Snowden, start a new era, is laughable. Merkel is the embodiment of the status quo.

  2. We are alienating our democratic allies, and embracing tyrants and dictators. It took years of hard work for US Presidents to build a good relationship with our European allies, and all it took was 4 months for Trump to undo it all. Trump is sadly mistaken if he thinks we can rely on Russia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, to replace our European allies. Trump has taken this nation into a very precipitous place, and we should all be scared.

    • ” and embracing tyrants and dictators”…I often wish I could go back to my rose colored glasses days. Might I recommend a couple of books if you are seriously interested in this topic? Deterring Democracy, Rogue States and Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky are great primers. I also highly suggest Rogue State by William Blum. John Pilgers’ film, The War On Democracy, is great too.

      • Yes – but recall Chomsky came out strongly against Trump and for Clinton. It appears even shrill MIT leftists know an existential threat when they see it. Et tu?

        • “Yes – but recall Chomsky came out strongly against Trump and for Clinton.”

          My point was directly related to the types of people in power the US government supports, and has supported, which he has documented extensively. Why would his coming out in support of Clinton have any impact on the facts of history? Please elaborate because I can’t see how those are fitting together in your mind.

          “It appears even shrill MIT leftists know an existential threat when they see it.”
          In light of what he has documented, this quote is ironic beyond belief. Talk to Palestinians about existential threats. Or the Vietnamese. Or the Indonesians. Or the Chileans. Or the Salvadorans. Or the Iraqi’s. Or the Yemeni’s. Or anyone of the peoples that he has documented being tortured, starved, bombed, displaced, kidnapped, imprisoned, extradited. I would argue that existential threast have been imposed on certain peoples for a very long time, and it did not start with Trump.

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    Sadly the British Prime Minister continues the poodle role pioneered by the scoundrel Blair

    link to

    The American Fellow Traveller masquerading as Foreign Secretary is totally in thrall to anything American. link to

    Throwing them out at the Election will be a pleasure.

  4. This string may unravel a relationship that has served to define the European balance of power since WW II. There’s no telling where this will end up.

    Merkel could not make this statement in such a deliberate way unless she was prepared to commit Germany to the leadership vacuum, and that’s the story here.

    This is because Merkel must think she has the domestic support to do so. Certainly her appraisal would have been the consensus of the other ministers present. It would have been foolish to make this statement otherwise (despite its obvious truth), and she is anything but.

    • Asras— We appear to have diametrically opposing perspectives, and I’d ordinarily defer to longstanding, direct observation. But the geopolitical imperatives here appear to be too compellingly for Merkel to just bow her head, shuffle away, and hope everything will somehow work out.

      As politicians, she and those before her have had to reflect a psychology that has chosen to regard itself as on perpetual probation. In all matter of concerns with regard to power, policy and leadership, Germany found it more comfortable to defer on such issues to the US, one way or the other. That attitude will at some point die out, even as that older generation fades away.

      Within the EC, a good deal of EU rudderless behavior has in the past been due to Germany not assuming a role appropriate to its position. Germany is not just the beating heart of Europe, but factoring out the UK it could represent much of its torso. (Forgive the limits of the metaphor, which would have France as Europe’s head).

      I’d be open to Merkel just flogging red meat, but it did not sound that way to me. It did, indeed sound very, very careful. Careful and deliberate.

      Events often have a way of driving politics, and here the geopolitics and the stakes for Germany and the EU appear too high for business as usual.

      • Germany lost the war and was occupied and not a sovereign nation for years. even full sovereignty was conditional. It was Germany’s luck that the Americans and Russians were dancing to different music. Germany was needed for the balance of power. Europe was considered to be the likely battlefield. The Europeans, including Russia do not want to become another ME. that is one common interest that could change the balance. Russia shares a border with China also. That is why the USA needs a big military among other reasons.

  5. Whether what Chancellor Merkel said was a part of her campaign rhetoric or what she really believes in, the fact remains that Donald Trump has made the American presidency into a laughing stock in Europe and in the rest of the world, may be with the exception of Persian Gulf feudal rulers. The look on the faces of Emmanuel Macron, Merkel, Donald Tusk and other European leaders when Trump was lecturing them about the need to increase their military spending or his refusal to commit America to the Paris Agreement on climate change was quite telling. Trump and the members of his illustrious family have become the butt of jokes on the British and European media. This can’t be in the long-term interest of the United States and her relations with the rest of the world.

  6. These have been colonial moochers don’t know how Trump works. Announce with big fanfare, plans to invest hundred Billion over ten years in green energy in US, trump would commit and lead you in Schuhplattler.

    • In the past EU members could just punt when faced with US fecklessness on world issues more important than troop deployments.

      Merkel got her Wake-Up Call during her first meeting with Trump. I doubt the various ministers needed to compare notes after this meeting. Eyes would’ve met and locked in a shared understanding, and they simply couldn’t dismiss the situation with mere eyerolls.

      This may be for the best. The EU may now press on some of these more important issues far harder.

  7. Trump has yet to understand all trade deals are with the EU, not with Germany. Or that those “German” cars are made in South Carolina. Plain ignorance of Europe’s biggest economy.
    Germany was against the Libyan intervention, now with Syria and Afghanistan major sources of refugees into Europe. The consequences of the chaos unleashed in these countries is affecting Europe, not the far away US. One can see why the Germans are wanting to disengage.

  8. In anybody’s wildest imagination (given history since 1871), could it ever be that the strong sword and shield of Western democracy would be the German Chancellor?

  9. In essence she said, we can’t count on them, or we can’t rely on them, or we can’t trust them.
    She had to be diplomatic about it. She does not trust the man.

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