The German chancellor’s caveat laced congratulations to the Donald Trump appears to have been a lightly veiled warning to remember that he is president-elect of the United States, and nowhere else.
A German expert on security and foreign policy is convinced these are words the next American leader needed to hear. At the same time, it’s important to remember than strong allies are strong allies for a reason.
Patrick Keller of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung policy center in Berlin on Thursday issued an eight-page analysis of what Trump can expect in foreign relations. The overriding theme was simple: Contrary to his campaign rhetoric, he needs to understand he won’t always get his way. The nature of international diplomacy is that every nation looks out for its best interests, then agrees to compromise where it feels it can.
This was a hint to our difficult ally that even the great America can’t do without reliable allies
Patrick Keller of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung policy center in Berlin
The chancellor had congratulated Trump, saying, “Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position On the basis of these values I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.”
Keller believes it was good advice. “This was a hint to our difficult ally that even the great America can’t do without reliable allies,” he wrote.
“In his campaign, Trump has lamented Germany's low defense spending as freeloading behavior at the expense of the United States and repeatedly used the chancellor's refugee policy as a cautionary tale,” he wrote. “So the first encounter of the two is not going to be easy. Hence, the chancellor struck the correct note in her congratulatory message: pragmatic cooperation, on the foundation of shared values.”
It isn’t just Merkel and Germany who are on alert about the intentions of the new president, however.
“Trump's campaign statements have unsettled America's allies,” Keller wrote. “He wanted to predicate U.S. assistance for NATO partners under attack on conditions of them having invested the agreed two percent of Gross National Product in defense spending.”
Most NATO nations do not meet this long-standing but ignored funding standard. Keller noted the unease goes beyond Europe.
“Asia was also alarmed to hear his remark that Japan and South Korea were rich enough to take care of their own security,” he wrote. “Trump's talk of being able to agree a ‘deal’ with Putin intensifies the uneasiness (just like his remark that he wants to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal)...”
There are Germans who see advantages in distancing the nation, at least a bit, from the U.S.
"For Germany this means that Berlin continues to gain importance as a guarantor of the liberal world order,” he wrote. But he added a warning: “Without the support of the United States, Germany and the European Union are lacking the resources to protect this order against aggressors.
“Therefore, we are in for a delicate act of transatlantic alliance policy. The necessity of close cooperation - example of the secret services and in protecting Europe from Russian aggression, but also in trade and economic policy - needs to be understood and conveyed inside and outside, also in order to counteract mutual estrangement/alienation. This includes reminding the Americans of how advantageous strong European allies are for them.”