LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
Offering a tough review in the wake of Trump’s trip to visit E.U., NATO and Group of Seven leaders last week, Merkel told a packed Bavarian beer hall rally that the days when Europe could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”
It was a stark declaration from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy, and a grim take on the transatlantic ties that have underpinned Western security in the generations since World War II. Although relations between Washington and Europe have been strained during periods since 1945, before Trump there has rarely been such a strong feeling from European leaders that they must turn away from Washington and prepare to face the world alone.
Merkel said that Europe’s need to go it alone should be done “of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that works.”
But it was a clear repudiation of Trump’s troubled few days with European leaders, even as she held back from mentioning the U.S. president by name. On Thursday, Trump had stern words for German trade behind closed doors. Hours later, he blasted European leaders at NATO for failing to spend enough on defense, while holding back from offering an unconditional guarantee for European security. Then, at the Group of Seven summit of leaders of major world economies on Friday and Saturday, he refused to endorse the Paris agreements on combating climate change, punting a decision until next week.
Merkel’s comments were similar to some she made shortly after Trump’s November election. But they carry extra heft now that Trump is actually in office – and after Trump had a days-long opportunity to reset relations with Washington’s closest allies. Instead, by most European accounts he strained them even more.
Trump – who returned from his nine-day international trip on Saturday – had a different take.
“Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!” Trump wrote on Sunday, reviving a prolific Twitter habit that had slackened during his days on the road.
But many European leaders emerged from their meetings with Trump filled with fresh worry that an earthquake truly had hit transatlantic relations. Trump was far more solicitous toward the autocratic king of Saudi Arabia earlier in the week, telling him and other leaders of Muslim-majority countries – many of them not democratically elected – that he was not “here to lecture.” Days later in Brussels he offered a scathing assessment of Washington’s closest allies, saying they were being “unfair” to American taxpayers.
“The belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at Germany’s University of Regensburg. “After the inauguration, everyone in Europe was hopeful that Trump would become more moderate and take into account the positions of the G-7 and of NATO. But the opposite has happened. It’s as if he is still trying to win a campaign.”
Americans have been working on good transatlantic relations my entire lifetime. Basically, America has been home of the good guys since World War II. We were trusted to stand up against communist aggression and we were trusted to help rebuild war-torn Europe.
Apparently all that good-will is teetering on the precipice of non-existence because of the actions of a bumbling buffoon who offends rather than working towards continued good relations. Every time he opens his mouth, Trump shows how little he knows about diplomacy and history. He jeopardizes our safety and alliances that have existed for decades. He is a destabilizing influence.