How they see us: Europe loses faith in America
Is this the end of the Western alliance? asked Tom Peck in Independent.co.uk. German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to think so. During his first European trip last week, President Trump repeatedly spurned America’s longtime allies. At a NATO meeting in Brussels, he harangued other member nations for not spending enough on defense and failed to affirm Article 5, the alliance’s mutual-defense clause. Trump even physically shoved aside the Montenegrin prime minister as NATO leaders gathered for a photo, displaying the “diplomatic grace of an orangutan.” Then at a meeting with senior European Union officials, he called Germany “bad, very bad” for selling cars to the U.S.— never mind that most of those cars are made in U.S. plants by U.S. workers. When Trump was back on American soil, Merkel spoke out. “The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” Merkel told an election rally in Munich. She added that while Europe would remain “friendly” with the U.S. and post-Brexit Britain, “we have to fight for ourselves.” It’s now clear that the era of 1945 to 2016, “when the Western nations of the world were reliable partners, dependent on one another,” is gone.
There was “a certain amount of campaigning” in Merkel’s speech, said Annett Meiritz in Der Spiegel (Germany). After all, parliamentary elections are set for September, and the Christian Democrat is seeking a fourth term as chancellor. But even the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) agree with her assessment. “The shortsighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union,” said Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD foreign secretary in Merkel’s coalition government, citing Trump’s climate change denial, his militarism, and his travel ban on citizens from selected Muslim-majority nations. Merkel is now calling on EU members to “shoulder emotionally charged challenges such as a common defense and security policy.” Can they step up? It’s an open question, said Christoph Schiltz in Die Welt (Germany). The EU is far from united—eastern European nations like Poland and Hungary have balked at accepting their share of the refugees Germany has welcomed into the union. But Trump’s obvious tilt toward Russia frightens the easterners, who are on the front lines, and Merkel is betting that she can “unite Europeans in their skepticism over Trump.”
Merkel is playing a dangerous game, said Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times (U.K.). Is she really ready to trash an alliance that has kept Europe safe for 70 years after only four difficult months of a Trump presidency? It’s possible that he’s “an aberration and will soon be out of office.” And by suggesting that the alliance is coming apart, Merkel is effectively encouraging Russia to ramp up its efforts to shatter Western unity. Some commentators and anti-Trump activists have proclaimed Merkel the new “leader of the Western world.” The sad reality is that she has “little interest in fighting to save the Western alliance.”