On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a shiver through German-U.S. relations when she told a packed beer tent of her fellow Christian Democrats in Munich that from her experience at the G7 and NATO summits, "I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands — of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, and as good neighbors wherever that is possible also with other countries, even with Russia." On Monday, her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel was just being honest about differences with the Trump administration.
"The chancellor's words stand on their own — they were clear and comprehensible," Seibert said. Merkel is "a deeply convinced trans-Atlanticist," he told reporters in Berlin, and "those of you who have reported on the chancellor for a long time will know how important German-American relations are to her." Merkel will "continue to work to strengthen" this "firm pillar of our foreign and security policy," he said, but "because trans-Atlantic relations are so important to this chancellor, it is right from her viewpoint to speak out honestly about differences." President Trump and Merkel disagree on climate change and NATO commitments, among other things.
Merkel, who grew up in Soviet-controlled East Germany, has been a longtime supporter of the U.S. and backer of strong ties with the U.S., so her comments that Germany's ability to rely on the U.S. and Britain is "over to a certain extent" were seen as a blow to the post-World War II order. David Frum explained on Sunday that splitting apart Germany and the U.S. has been a key, long-term goal of the Soviet Union and then Russia under President Vladimir Putin, and argued that Trump just achieved what Russia has been unable to. "Putin could not have achieved out of this trip more exactly what he wanted if he'd been paying for it," he said. Watch below, or read his longer argument at The Atlantic. Peter Weber