In the world of diplomacy, subtle changes in wording can often mass seismic shifts in attitude and policy so the omission of terms like “friend” and “friendship” from the current election program is significant. In the previous German campaign in 2013, Merkel’s party had described German relations with the US under Barack Obama’s Administration as a “friendship” that was a “cornerstone” of Germany’s international relations.
Rather than a current friendship that could lead to stronger economic ties, the current campaign describes the US as Germany’s “most important partner” outside of Europe. The materials focus on the historical relationship between the two countries such as US aid in the post-World War II reconstruction and reunification.
Trump was sharply critical of Merkel during the American elections. The US president said that her “insane” immigration policies were “ruining” Germany and the German government was not fulfilling its financial obligations to NATO. Trump has also denounced Germany’s trade surplus with the United States.
Things have not improved since Trump took office. In May, the president failed to affirm the US treaty obligation to defend NATO countries and withdrew the US from the Paris Accords on climate change.
The moves prompted a strong reaction from Merkel, who said, “The times in which we could fully rely on others are, to a certain extent, in the past. We Europeans must take our fate into our own hands more decisively than we have in the past.” The statement is repeated in the campaign document.
Merkel’s party seems ready to pivot toward France, a traditional rival. The two nations are the economic powerhouses of the European Union and are natural military allies in the age of a resurgent and aggressive Russia.
President Trump will join Chancellor Merkel and other prominent world leaders in Hamburg this week for the annual summit of the Group of 20 nations. After Merkel’s diplomatic snub, tensions will likely be high, especially given Mr.Trump’s reputation for not turning the other cheek to insults. Things could get awkward.