Henry Kissinger’s wish of long ago, that Europe maintain a phone number so that Europeans could reach a responsible partner, has come true; not literally, but in effect. The “partner on the phone” is Angela Merkel, with one qualification. Just as there are several Europes in the EU, there are “several Americas” in the U.S., as the end of this week demonstrated.
On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave an address at Harvard to that part of America which considers Donald Trump an enemy, someone who does not legitimately speak for the United States. Merkel garnered applause and praise for things she didn’t actually do: for gay marriage (she was against it herself), minimum wage (Social Democrats forced it through), and climate policy. (She shut down nuclear power plants, making increased carbon emissions unavoidable.) And she drew parallels she had to have known were demagogical. Yes, President Ronald Reagan called for tearing down the wall in Berlin, whereas President Trump wants one on the Mexican border. But isn’t there a genuine difference between a wall imprisoning a country’s own citizens and one aimed against illegal migration?
By Friday, Merkel was in Berlin negotiating with a representative of Trump’s America, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Did they find a common language? They agree that Iran must not obtain nuclear weapons, but they disagree on how that can be accomplished. Through Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement? Through Trump’s threats, which reinforce paranoia in Tehran over fears that the U.S. will overthrow the regime? The number of issues on which Germany, (speaking for the EU) and the U.S. disagree are growing, including the approach to the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 and Chinese technology (Huawei). And as for those points where there is still agreement, such as the policy regarding Ukraine, the media are putting them through the wringer.
Trump and Merkel are betting on the possibility there will be agreement with someone. The man known for the “art of the deal” is even up for talking with Kim Jong Un. Merkel is calmly negotiating with Vladimir Putin, but she will tell him that Crimea is not an item one buys in Moscow’s GUM department store. If even Merkel is unable to reach an effective agreement with the U.S. (let’s not flatter ourselves that Trump is just a passing phase), how will her successor, for instance, a Greens Party chancellor who views Trump as a criminal, reach resolution with the U.S.?