It’s no secret that Germany has many deep ties with America that seem to be completely unbreachable. But in the face of Trump’s ‘America first’ policy, those ties are feeling some strain. America first, by definition, means that America’s interests, across all sectors, get the top priority above those of all others, and even in spite of them, with heavy emphasis on the ‘spite’ part.
The manner in which Trump’s foreign policy has progressed during his tenure so far indubitably shows forth his loyalty to this program, which perceives that whatever America wants, it will get, regardless of how it impacts others, and everybody else is expected to just grin and bear it.
But that’s not how you treat your friends, and not how a partnership really works. America has a strong social and cultural policy with equality at its base in just about every human perspective and interaction, at least, insofar as the words go, but in action, it’s an ideal that is quickly losing ground on the value of actions, even at a time when equality is taking on a new emphasis in America’s cultural capital of Hollywood.
America’s foreign policy is enacting an approach that sees the world as a global chess game, and every other player is viewed as an opponent to be bested, a game where America wins at the loss of everyone else, the ‘better end of the deal’. It’s completely different from the party line that Washington has put forward for decades, where fairness, equality, and respect were put forward as motivating factors for international activities and agreements, even if, oftentimes, America still acted like it was purely out to advance its own interests. America still put on a nice face with nice words as a costume for their self interested global influence.
Today, American actions haven’t really changed all that much, in a way, but what has changed is the philosophy that it overtly advances. Now, under President Donald Trump, it brazenly tells the world that America will do and get what it wants, and everyone else must be good little boys and girls and play along, even if it means that they will lose. In Trump’s mind, it’s called ‘winning’, and in order to win, someone must lose.
Even America’s strongest allies have been reluctant to acknowledge America’s self interested global policies, because as long as they got something for it, they were okay with it. But lately, they’re not getting as much for it, if anything at all.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May were happy to go along with Trump’s strikes against Syria last month, as well as America’s sanctions regimen against Russia, even concocting their own reasons for taking a ‘defensive’ posture against Russia, all under the conduct of their friend and partner on the western side of the Atlantic.
Then the Iran nuclear deal came up to the chopping block. America has publicly declared that the Iran nuclear deal is not in their interests, and for that reason they will not participate, they won’t play, because it means that they won’t win, because in this deal, there are no losers.
This time, by following America’s lead, scrapping the Iran deal would not be in America’s European allies’s interests, its a game where the Europeans would be the ones on the losing end.
For that reason, Emmanuel Macron, British FM Boris Johnson, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, crossed the pond to plead their case and protect their interests, in hopes that Trump would respond amicably and respect them.
But once their cozy meetings were through, and they had returned home, Trump set out once again to win the game. He went full speed ahead and quit the Iran nuclear deal, regardless of, and in spite of, his European ‘partners’s interests and pleas to do otherwise.
Now, the interests of America’s European allies had not only gone up to the guillotine, without trial, but underwent the blade of ‘America first’. Now, playing the game with America, on the American side, can openly result in a European loss, and the Americans don’t care.
America here demonstrates to its allies and ‘partners’ that it has no intention of being a partner, or even a friend. There are only strategic interests, and America is behind Europe only when it suits those American strategic interests. America will be first. America will win, even if that means Europe must lose.
Europe, then, is coming to realise this new fact that the global order and global relationships are no longer based on multilateral cooperation to achieve a common goal, because between America and Europe, the goal is no longer a mutual one.
For America, the goal is America’s global hegemony at all costs. For Europe, it’s quite different. Whatever the talk about ‘shared values’ that might be coming out of lips of European leaders as they address America’s foreign posture, they are now coming to realise that the values of America and Europe are no longer congruent.
The American withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, a multilateral agreement enjoying the commitment of each member of the United Nations Security Council, including Germany and the EU, isn’t the only divergence of perspective. America has been on a roll as of late doing things that America says are for its own interests, but which stand diametrically opposed to those of America’s European allies.
That list includes the tariffs on Chinese aluminum and steel exports, the embassy move to Jerusalem which lethally stoked the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, extraterritorial sanctions on any company doing business with Iran, which stands to adversely impact the European economy, opposition to oil and gas cooperation between some European countries and Russia, verbally slamming Germany for its participation in the NATO defense budget balance, potentially opening up a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, among others.
Those shared values, that Europe and America are supposed to uphold together, along with economic and security cooperation, are what cement the friendship and partnership between Europe and America.
America, however, is disrupting each of these with its latest actions, between a shared vision of multilateralism, perceiving political, rather than military, means of resolving conflict and establishing cooperation and prosperity, to ensuring security against potential threats, to economic cooperation. America, not Syria, Iran, Russia, or Islamic extremists, right now is making itself the single biggest threat to each of these
Following his trip to Russia to secure economic cooperation and that of the shared value of economic access to the Iranian market, the Germany Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, declares that Germany will respond to America’s narcissistic foreign policy by defending its own interests.
The statements do three things: they demonstrate that the shared value system between America and Europe’s economic powerhouse, Germany, are quickly eroding; they demonstrate that Germany is finding some shared interests with the Russians; and they demonstrate that Germany will stand up for its own strategic interests against the overt inimical effects of America’s foreign policy.
Deutsche Welle reports:
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Europe will defend its interests if the US prioritizes its own over others. He also accused Washington of wanting to block a Russia-Germany pipeline to boost its own exports.
Europe will respond firmly if the US places its own economic interests above those of others, Germany Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Friday.
“The US are our friends and partners, and we want to defend our common values,” Altmaier told ARD public service television.
“But if it’s America first, and they put their economic interest before others, then they have to expect Europe to define their own interests and fight for them,” he added.
Amid growing fears of a trade war, the USA under the Trump administration imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum in March, but gave temporary tariff waivers to the EU and several other countries. The exemptions are due to expire June 1.
Earlier in the interview, Altmaier also defended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Washington, along with many eastern European countries, would like to block. They say that by sidelining Ukraine, it gives Russia too much leverage over countries reliant on its energy sources.
Altmaier, however, attributed US opposition to its desire to increase its own shale gas exports.
“They are looking for markets, which we can understand, and they can land it here easily,” Altmaier said. “But it is much more expensive than pipeline gas, so blocking Nord Stream 2 on its own won’t guarantee exports.”
Altmaier’s comments come as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to hold talks with her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that are expected to cover not only the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the war in Syria, but also energy issues and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Shared interests and values between America and Europe are quickly diverging. America is finding that it can and will achieve its goals and strategic interests with or without its European friends, as it demonstrated last week, and even into this one.
The end goals to be accomplished, as envisioned by the Europeans and the Americans are increasingly digressing, and even opposing, whereas the number of shared interests between the Europeans and the Russians, on the other hand, are increasingly converging, whether it is a peaceful, political resolution to the conflicts going on in Syria or the Ukraine, to energy cooperation, to security interests meaning keeping a lid on nuclear proliferation and shared market accesses, to commonly battling the economic barriers that America is erecting. While Europe is discovering that it need to find its own path in the world, that path is leading farther away from America, and lining up a little closer with those on the other side of the Baltic.