NATO summits are usually highly organized events. Heads of State and Government adopt previously negotiated decisions and define work plans up to the next summit. Above all, they aim to demonstrate unity and solidarity so that friend and foe alike believe that the NATO allies will defend each other in the event of a crisis. But this summit threatens to disrupt this process, because no one knows how US President Trump will behave. Will we see a revival of a brash Mr. Trump G7 Summit when the US President retrospectively ‘unsigned’ the communiqué via tweet? Or will he act as a patriarch, whose stubborn grumblings are ultimately met with cooperation, and keep the family bound together?
Germany and the United States have a deeply intertwined relationship, historically, politically, economically, and culturally. The end of the Cold War, however, has arguably catalyzed a transition to a new world order, in which Germany has broken away from its traditional dependence on the West, the so-called Westbindung. Given the two divided camps of thought this development has caused, this thesis analyzes if, how, and to what extent the German-American relationship has changed. I evaluate the German-American relationship of recent years in three dimensions: Germany’s military actions and role in international crises compared to those of the United States, in respect to the Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and Syria conflicts; Germany’s economic policies and preferences regarding the TTIP; and German public opinion of the transatlantic relationship. To inform my thesis, I conducted a literature review of existing academic opinion on the subject, analyzed German media coverage of the case studies in question and extracted data from polls conducted of German citizens. I conclude that a break from Atlanticism is unlikely, as doing so would contradict Germany’s core economic and political interests.
The transatlantic democracies are an alliance in search of a mission. The European powers have differing views about what that mission should be in the age of Trump. On the other side of the Atlantic, more than a year into office, it remains unclear whether the Trump administration has a contribution to the debate. These facts were on full display last week with the visits of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington. The receptions each received were a study in contrast. Macron was welcomed with the honors of a full state visit, including President Trump’s first state dinner. The two leaders almost reveled in their physical embrace of each other. The Merkel-Trump interaction, on the other hand, was short and to the point, warm but business-like.
Let’s be traditional first: The main purpose of the transatlantic relationship in the 21st century will look familiar to those who have studied its history since 1949: To prevent a situation from emerging in which Europeans feel they need to call Moscow first, instead of Washington, in questions of international politics. Add Beijing to the equation, and you get an idea of how daunting the task will be.
Transatlantic relations are the permanent suspension of conventional geopolitics for the purpose of limiting other powers’ influence over a Europe they could otherwise own. Look at the map, and you understand that, based on size, wealth, population and location, it is Russia that should dominate Western and Central Europe. It does not do so because America’s presence and promise of security to Europe creates an artificial barrier that Moscow has been unable to overcome since the end of World War II. With NATO and EU expansion, this barrier has moved eastward by a few hundred kilometers, and this is where, if all goes well, it will remain for some time to come.