Europe “must take its fate into its own hands” warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Europe’s most powerful and experienced statesman, was reacting to the situation of Western disconnect created first by Brexit and now deepened by Trump’s peculiar presidency.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Merkel told a crowd, assembled in Munich, Southern Germany, literally a day after the NATO summit with President Trump.
Trump, in his peculiar adjective-laden style, had declared German trade practices as “bad, very bad”.
She did not stop at that but added, “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
Trump’s European tour
On Sunday, The US President had tweeted, “Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump had beforehand tweeted that he would acknowledge whether or not the US would stick to the “Emissions Agreement” — which he pledged to dump during the campaign trail — only next week. On a previous leg of his first tour abroad as president, Trump had again launched criticism of NATO allies for declining to accommodate the western alliance’s growing expenditures which he claims are eating into the US GDP.
Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2017
In Brussels, Trump, in his peculiar adjective-laden style, had declared German trade practices as “bad, very bad”. Sounding bitter, he complained that Europe’s better economy sells too many cars to the US – in a clear reference towards the prestigious German auto brands like Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.
Merkel’s statement came just one day after Trump had a bitter G7 Summit in Italy, in which he frustrated Merkel, and the other European leaders in appearance, with his critical attitude towards European concerns on security, climate change, and taxation.
In the words of Hastings Ismay, NATO’s secretary general, NATO was created “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.”
This is certainly an astronomic change in political rhetoric between western allies. While the people across the world are more familiar with the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, the post-war German-U.S. accord is, arguably, of immense significance. One of the key purposes behind the creation of NATO was to bury Germany in an all-embracing framework that would prevent it from becoming part of any European arrangement as it had been during the two world wars. In the words of Hastings Ismay, NATO’s aboriginal secretary general, NATO was created “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Now, Merkel is suggesting that the Americans aren’t absolutely in. Russians are nearer, bolder, and essential than ever before and by extension, Germany and Europe are free to think of an independent European arrangement, more autonomous than anything seen in the past seventy years of the post-war world.
Merkel’s comment about what she has experienced in the last few days, with veiled references towards Trump, is certainly a new found European audaciousness seldom seen before. President Trump’s European tour and his insensitivity to European concerns and his inward-looking worldview have produced it. Her acceptance that the United States is no longer a reliable partner is fixed after effect of Trump’s words and actions.
Europeans feel that the “raison d’etre” of NATO finds expression in Article 5, which guarantees that if one member is under attack all other members have to come to its aid; as it happened after the terrorists struck in New York and Washington in September 2001. However, Trump’s repeated complaints about Europeans under-investing in an arrangement that – to many Europeans – mainly serves to ensure US hegemony is jarring to European ears – this is the context in which Merkel’s comments can be understood. Julius Caesar apparently had said, while crossing Rubicon, that “die has been cast”; it remains to be seen if US-German Gulf will continue to widen during the Trump’s presidency – but apparently, during Trump’s first European interaction, “die has been cast”.