LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Donald Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”
Offering a tough review in the wake of Trump’s trip to visit European Union, NATO and Group of Seven leaders last week, Merkel told a packed Bavarian beer hall rally that the days when Europe could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.”
It was a stark declaration from the leader of Europe’s most powerful economy, and a grim take on the trans-Atlantic ties that have underpinned Western security in the generations since World War II. Although relations between Washington and Europe have been strained during periods since 1945, before Trump there has rarely been such a strong feeling from European leaders that they must turn away from Washington and prepare to face the world alone.
Merkel said that Europe’s need to go it alone should be done “of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that works.”
But it was a clear repudiation of Trump’s few days with European leaders. On Thursday, Trump had tough words for German trade behind closed doors. Hours later, he blasted European leaders at NATO for failing to spend enough on defense, while holding back from offering an unconditional guarantee for European security. Then, at the Group of Seven summit of leaders of major world economies Friday and Saturday, he refused to endorse the Paris agreements on combating climate change, punting a decision until next week.
Merkel made similar comments shortly after Trump’s November election. But they carry extra heft now that Trump is actually in office — and after Trump had a days-long opportunity to reset relations with Washington’s closest allies. Instead, by most European accounts he strained them even more.
“The belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on trans-Atlantic relations at Germany’s University of Regensburg. “After the inauguration, everyone in Europe was hopeful that Trump would become more moderate and take into account the positions of the G7 and of NATO. But the opposite has happened. It’s as if he is still trying to win a campaign.”
Bierling said there was broad consensus among Germany’s political parties that the country can no longer rely on the U.S. as a reliable partner.