Recently, a public opinion survey released by the Pew Research Center in the United States and the Kobel Foundation in Germany once again put US-German relations and US-Europe relations under the public eye. According to the survey results, 64% of German residents think that the relationship between Germany and the United States is deteriorating, while only 2% think that the relationship between Berlin and Washington is good.
The survey reflects the latest dilemma in US-German relations. Although virtue is an alliance and the United States has a large number of troops stationed in Germany, the mutual conflicts and differences between the two have surfaced frequently after Trump took office. The recent “mutual tear” between the US ambassador to Germany and the German economic minister is a typical case . The Trump administration has also repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs on German cars, demand that Germany increase NATO military expenditures as soon as possible, and use “restriction on intelligence cooperation” to pressure Germany to reject Huawei’s participation in building the next-generation mobile Internet infrastructure. The United States’ fingertips on Germany have extended from the alliance to the internal affairs of Germany. The condescending and arrogant attitude naturally triggered the German government’s rebound and public dissatisfaction.
The root cause is that the deterioration of US-German relations is not just composed of the above-mentioned specific problems. The decline in the value of European countries represented by Germany in US foreign strategy is the root cause of their attitude change.
First, although the value of Europe’s global strategy towards the United States was questioned before the end of the Cold War and before Obama came to power, it was basically stable due to strategic inertia. After the end of the Cold War, under the strategic goal of stabilizing the results of the Cold War victory and bringing the Soviet sphere of influence into the Western orbit, Eurasia was still an important strategic part of the United States after the war, and Europe was an important strategic partner. The US strategy for Europe, proposed by Bush Clinton and inherited by Clinton, is “the whole and a free Europe”, which formed the core of the US global strategy during this period.
Second, after Obama came to power, the “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” of the United States coincided with “withdrawal from Europe”, and Europe’s position in the US’s global layout declined. The United States has remained relatively indifferent to the crisis in and around Europe. When Europe confronts major internal challenges such as the euro crisis and refugee crisis, the United States basically stays out of the way. This is in stark contrast to Clinton and even George W. Bush’s active assistance in helping Europe meet internal challenges. Around Europe, the US retreat is even more pronounced. The United States advocated “leadership behind” in the Libyan war; “decentralized” mediation missions to France and Germany in the Ukrainian crisis; failed to honor “red line commitments” in the Syrian crisis; and set up a “timetable” for US withdrawal in advance on the Afghanistan Wait.
Third, after Trump took office, he continued to promote the upgraded version of the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” of “Asia-Pacific Rebalancing”, the eastward shift of the US strategic focus continued, and Europe’s position in the US global strategy further declined. At the same time, the White House’s 2017 National Security Strategy Report
Although mentioning the maintenance of the Western Alliance, senior US officials have repeatedly called for maintaining the stability of the transatlantic alliance relationship, but it is still the United States’ leading strategic thinking to deal with the strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific region. Guided by this thinking, the US retreat from Europe is not only difficult to reverse, but also presents a “destructive retreat” due to Trump’s personal reasons. This has a more severe impact on Europe ’s perception, and has caused more substantial damage to Europe. It may even endanger European interests and cause the US-Europe alliance to become loose.
Fourth, what disappoints Germany even more is that Trump is gradually destroying the post-war strategic consensus of the European Union on European integration. With the UK choosing to start the “Brexit” process, European integration is facing great challenges. As the “leader” of the European Union, Germany has the responsibility and obligation to continue to maintain and promote the results of European integration. At this critical juncture, the Trump administration was vague on the issue of European integration, even actively proposing to support the “Brexit” of the United Kingdom, provoking populist trends in continental Europe, and running counter to the United States ’basic strategy of supporting European integration after World War II. It broke the strategic consensus of the two sides of the Atlantic on the direction of Europe.
These virtues and new changes in US-Europe relations have led to a continuous decline in mutual recognition between the two sides. However, it must be seen that the cornerstone of the US-European alliance is still a NATO-based military alliance, and the security and intelligence cooperation mechanisms that have been formed have become an important link in maintaining transatlantic relations. On security issues, Germany’s dependence on the United States determines that the alliance between the two sides will not be completely broken. Despite many dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s foreign policy, German political circles are critical of opposition to French President Macron’s NATO “brain death theory”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she could not agree with “the extreme views of France” and emphasized that NATO was the mainstay of German defense. His comments reflect Germany’s continued security reliance on the US-led NATO rather than France’s European security framework. This includes both Germany’s consideration of its own military security strategy and the practical constraints of the German economic slowdown.
The United States will not easily abandon Germany, an important European ally. As the foreign strategy shifts to “big country competition”, the United States has already regarded China as its first strategic competitor, and its China policy will gradually be upgraded from “the entire government” and “the whole society” to “the world”, and mobilize its allies to deal with China Development has become an indispensable prop in the U.S. policy toolbox for China. Under this strategic orientation, shaping a common adversary may become the next important means for the United States to ensure that the alliance system “falls apart.”