German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says Europe can no longer rely on on allies like Britain and the United States. pic.twitter.com/wqPgnq7S34
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) May 29, 2017
The impact of Trump’s speech at NATO headquarters reverberates through European politics. Attention is lavished on the G7 Summit and its alleged failure.
The focus in the media is on Merkel and her response to Trump. As the leader of the largest EU state, what she says, does and how she responds to Trump is followed with great interest. A remark she made while visiting her Bavarian CSU allies for the election campaign is therefore widely reported on, and given a weight beyond the mere words:
“The times, when we could completely rely on others, those times are truly gone. This I have experienced in the last few days. Because of this, I can only say: we Europeans have to take our destiny into our own hands.“
A lot has been made of these words. They are seen as a signal of a new European élan, and of Merkel taking up the gauntlet against Trump. What it really stresses, however, is that Trump had a very good point when he pointed out Germany’s deficiency in paying for NATO.
Merkel’s remark suggests freewheeling, more so than a solid European stance. There is very little chance that Germany will ever make the 2% NATO norm under its current, or possible future leadership.
For a continent propagating diversity, there is preciously little diversity in high politics. Trump represents, more than anything else, the kind of diversity of ideas European leaders are not used to. That is not to say that Trump’s ideas are necessarily better, but that European leaders are no longer in the business of formulating and arguing their points of view anymore. Confronted with the least opposition, they revert to bully tactics – which is incidentally precisely what they accuse Trump of doing.
Most ironically, while Merkel points out the importance of European solidarity, through co-operation in the EU and NATO, her own population refuses to follow her there:
“Despite contradictory signals since Trump’s election victory, 65% of surveyed Germans believed that the US government would honour its commitments in any hypothetical war with Russia.” At the same time “of the eight countries polled, Germany was the only one where more respondents rejected NATO solidarity than backed it.“