World Politics >>> What Will Happen to the Europe-American Alliance as Angela Merkel Steps Down?
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Picture credits: CNN website
Angela Merkel first took office as the chancellor of Germany in 2005 and has since then been re-elected for 3 more consecutive terms in 2009, 2013 and 2018. But now she is preparing to leave office after the end of her fourth term. Her place is currently being contested for by three main candidates who are Olaf Scholz, Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock. But since the start of her time as chancellor, there has been a dynamic twist in the relationship that Europe shares with its American counterparts.
Ms. Merkel and her Relationship with the American Presidents
Ms. Merkel in her terms as chancellor has had to work with four different American presidents, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Joe Biden. But Ms. Merkel has managed to maintain a strong relationship with her powerful transcontinental allies. State Department spokesman Ned Price commented “Her leadership is in many ways responsible for the current state of U.S - German relations, and we are grateful for it”.
Picture credit: CNN website
However, the journey was bittersweet. When she first became chancellor in 2005, she was one of the only European leaders that supported the Iraq invasion. Ms. Merkel and President Bush became very close friends, something that they maintain even today. This coherence in political views and policies and their close friendship made it easier to maintain their diplomatic relationship as well. Ms. Merkel even commented in 2005 “There will be no united and strong Europe in opposition to America”.
Whilst president Obama also remains close personal friends with Ms. Merkel, the German-American relationship started to show signs of fatigue and tension as there were numerous incidents that affected its stability.
It was when President Trump first took office however, that their ties were on the verge of collapse. Trump frequently commented that Germany was contributing too little to “the defense of Europe” and had collisions with Ms. Merkel about the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. He threatened German car manufacturers and was extremely critical of German ties and trade deals with Russia.
Picture credit: Business Insider website
This “America first” policy that Trump brought to world politics severely strained the relationship that Europe and America developed post WWII.
Current Affairs and How they Affect the America-Europe Relationship
Even as America replaced Trump with Joe Biden as president, the future of the European-American relationship remains murky. The recent withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after almost 20 years of occupancy sparked outrage all over the world. American allies who rushed into war with the US as a symbol of solidarity after the 9/11 attacks, had to scramble to get their own troops and diplomatic staff out of the country safely. Even Ms. Merkel was taken by surprise when she found out that American troops had evacuated a key airfield in Afghanistan which was vital for German evacuations without notifying her government.
Another such incident was when the US, UK and Australia recently signed a new defense contract “Aukus”. This move outraged France as it meant the end of the $90 billion contract that Australia had with a French Naval defense company and was a major setback for President Macron. Former French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, commented on Twitter, “The world is a jungle - France has just been reminded this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia. C’est la vie” (“that is life”).
Picture credit: CNN website
Additionally, as Ms. Merkel helped and oversaw the economic development of Germany, she also understood that there was another economic superpower brewing in Asia, China. She has visited the country 13 times and has been quite fond of its rich history and culture. She also understands the vast economic benefits that China brings to the table for Germany.
With her time in office drawing to an end, her successor has to balance this complicated foreign relationship and navigate through the everchanging American foreign policies. In sharp contrast to her 2005 comments, in a more recent speech in 2017 she commented “The times we could rely on others are gone… we Europeans must take our destiny into our own hands”.
September 23rd 2021 | 3:45 PM