Europe’s defence by the US is no longer something that can be taken for granted, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.
“It must be said that 30 years after Germany’s reunification, 30 years after the end of the Cold War, the world is positioning itself in a new way. That which we took for granted, for example, that the United States will defend the European Union, is no longer self-evident, it is changing,” Merkel said, speaking at a press conference together with Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder on Tuesday.
“We must find the right answer to this issue, and such an answer cannot be based on the action of each nation state individually. Rather, for us, these answers lie in multilateral alliances, and the European Union is this kind of multilateral alliance,” she added.
Characterizing a united Europe as a means by which the continent can “live our basic values together,” Merkel suggested such a Europe “is a promise to assert oneself in a world of other major players – China, the USA, Russia. It is Europe that has to guarantee prosperity, including for us Germans, for whom it is protection and a guarantee that we can live in prosperity,” she said.
Merkel paid a surprise trip to Bavaria on Tuesday to meet with Soeder after four months of near-isolation amid the coronavirus crisis.
The chancellor’s comments on excessive reliance on the US follow remarks she made last month about the need to “reflect…very deeply” on a world where the United States doesn’t envision itself as a world power anymore. Criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw thousands of troops from Germany, Merkel insisted that their continued presence in Europe protects not only Germany and the European nations of NATO, “but also the interests of the United States.”
Merkel’s comments followed remarks by US officials including President Trump in recent weeks accusing Berlin of being “delinquent” on its payments to NATO, and claims that Germany owes the alliance billions of dollars.
In late June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that strained German-US relations, the result of squabbling over issues ranging from defence spending and trade to potential sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were not issues that could be easily resolved, even if Trump were voted out of office in November.