Upon returning to Washington Sunday, President Donald Trump declared his first foreign trip “a great success.” German chancellor Angela Merkel, however, seemed to disagree.
Merkel, who is up for reelection in September, addressed a crowd of campaign supporters shortly after the end of the G7 summit. “The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Merkel said. “We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
Merkel characterized the G7 talks as “six against one” and “very unsatisfactory.”
Her comments were at least partly the result of Trump blasting Germany, one of America’s closest allies, as “very, very bad” during his address to NATO leaders over the weekend. “See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S.,” Trump said. “Terrible. We will stop this.”
Trump apparently forgot (or, more likely, doesn’t know) that stateside German auto plants provide thousands of American jobs.
But Merkel was also surely troubled by Trump’s policy positions across a range of issues. While leaders from Italy, Germany, Canada, the U.K., Japan, and France affirmed their commitment to the historic Paris Agreement, Trump made no such promise. He later said he would issue a decision about the international climate deal sometime this week.
In his address to NATO, Trump also declined to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5, the mutual defense clause of the NATO charter. Under Article 5, an attack on one NATO country is an attack on all NATO countries. This principle has only been invoked once – when the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001.
Instead, Trump used his address to lambaste NATO countries for failing, in his view, to pay their fair share. In point of fact, NATO member states are not actually behind in their military spending.
Merkel was not the only German leader to conclude that the U.S. was no longer reliable. Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said, “Anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones, and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk.”
What does all this mean in the grand scheme? Salon’s Heather Parton explored the impact of weakened U.S. leadership in a recent piece, writing, “Trump’s election has resulted in a loss of trust that’s going to be almost impossible to get back. Many countries in this world depend upon the American security umbrella and a predictable American foreign policy, even if they aren’t particularly happy about it. They’re going to look for other arrangements now.”
In a Europe with an unreliable U.S. and a post-Brexit U.K., Germany or France could take on a larger role. But Russia could see the dissolution of the Atlantic alliance as a green light to push its own agenda. No matter what happens, Trump’s “America first” policy has left Europe to fend for itself.
Featured image via YouTube video.