Escape from America: Merkel is distancing from the US

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Old Europe in the face of Germany, France and Italy is prone to greater independence, while countries of Central and Eastern Europe continue to cooperate with Washington in the field of security
21:37, 1 June 2017

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After the NATO summit in Brussels and the G-7 summit on Sicily, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed to change the foreign policy course of Germany and the European Union and stop relying on the US, and count solely on their own forces in the struggle for a better future. The formal reason for such a political demarche of the German Chancellor is the disagreement between Donald Trump and the leaders of the G-7 countries on the Paris Agreement on Ecology and Counteracting Global Warming. In 2015, the document was signed by 142 states, including the United States, which pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere over the next few years. However, this is not a very plausible reason for Europe to radically change its foreign policy. The Paris agreement regulates purely environmental issues of a global nature and has nothing to do with the transatlantic cooperation between the EU and the US, including in the sphere of security. Merkel must have other reasons for discontent with the policy of Donald Trump.

Merkel does not like the protectionism of Trump

Angela Merkel has lost her interest in the US, as Donald Trump is skeptical about concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). At a meeting with EU representatives, Trump and President of the EU Council Donald Tusk did not agree on an open multilateral trade. The idea of creating a free trade zone between the EU and the US appeared during the presidency of Barack Obama. Then Germany could derive substantial benefits in the event of cancellation of customs duties and facilitating conditions for investments between the EU and the US. The United States ranks first place among the German export partners and fourth in imports. According to the European Commission, if the TTIP is implemented, bilateral trade between the US and the EU will increase by 50%. The area of economic policy, the free trade zone between America and Europe would allow to achieve an annual increase American GDP to 119 billion euros until 2027.

Related: Trump approves tougher visa vetting, including social media checks

Donald Trump pursues a policy of protectionism to protect the interests of local producers and strengthen demand in the US domestic market. He has already achieved the US withdrawal from the similar agreement on the Trans-Pacific partnership that Barack Obama signed with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region (APR) in February 2016. The policy of protectionism is aimed at ensuring that US TNCs retain existing domestic production and create some additional workplaces for American citizens. In 2016, about 7.5 million Americans were unemployed. Trump promised to increase fees from those companies that intend to open new production outside the US. Trump's protectionism is beneficial for American industrialists. In a free trade zone with the EU, Germany could strengthen its presence in the US market. Export of cars and various industrial equipment is a trump card for foreign economic activities in Berlin. Germany is EU’s largest exporter.

No wonder that just on the very day of the NATO summit before the meeting with Trump, the German chancellor met with Barack Obama at the Brandenburg Gate and discussed with him the pressing problems of the EU - migration crisis and terrorist threats. The event was held on the occasion of the celebration of the Day of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Thus, Merkel made clear to Trump that she gave greater priority to relations with his opponents from the Democratic Party, whose policies were beneficial to Germany and the EU.

Related: Trump decides to remove US from Paris Climate Agreement

Germany does not want to pay the US for security

Germany and the European Union still rely on the United States in the sphere of ensuring European security. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has taken 50% of NATO's defense spending, keeping the armed contingents in Europe for the sake of Euro-Atlantic security. There are 99.5 thousand American soldiers and officers of various arms in Europe. One third of them are housed in Germany. There are 150 American nuclear warheads at the airbases of the European member countries of NATO. The United States is participating in Operation Atlantic Decisiveness to increase its military presence on NATO's eastern borders to deter Russia's aggression. It has also undertaken to send several battalions, tanks and armored vehicles to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. European countries have reduced military spending and rely entirely on the US and NATO to ensure their security. Britain and France are exceptional here, because they have almost all types of weapons, including nuclear warheads, in the arsenal.

Trump became the first American president that decided to pull most of the EU countries, including Germany, out of the "comfort zone." At a recent NATO summit in Brussels, he straightforwardly and uncompromisingly demanded that European NATO member countries increase their defense spending to 2% of GDP. Of the 28 NATO member countries (not counting the United States), only the UK, Greece, Estonia, and Poland spend the necessary amounts on defense. Despite the fact that Germany is the most powerful economy of the EU, its defense spending is only 1.2% of GDP.

Related: Ten American cities call for Trump’s impeachment

Germany is interested in spending money on overcoming the migration crisis, the distribution of refugees by quota in member countries rather than on defense. Attitudes toward the US is consumer. Germany was ready to go in the wake of US foreign policy and adhere to the general course in the field of security as long as there was benefit from such cooperation. Actually, the US has been providing the security of the EU without the special participation of the European countries themselves. Now there is no such benefit, because the US actually offers Germany to finance the stay of American troops on its own territory.

There is no alternative to the US

Merkel still hopes to transform the EU into a self-sufficient center of power with its own armed forces, foreign policy course independent of the US and Russia. It is in Merkel's interests to build a strong Europe. It can find allies among the founding countries of the EU, including France. The new French President Emmanuel Macron, like Angela Merkel, believes that France should pursue an independent foreign policy, not depend on anyone and contribute to the strengthening of European integration. Italy is in favor of the idea of strengthening the EU and creating a pan-European army. In November 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the revision of the General Security and Defense Policy towards the formation of a military and political structure within the EU for the implementation of collective defense. It is proposed to increase the defense spending of the EU member states by 2%, create a special fund to finance defense initiatives, upgrade the fleet of military equipment and combat helicopters, and create a multinational European army.

The problem is that the existing military potential of the EU is not enough to form an effective military bloc, without the US support. Russia's defense expenditures (3.5% of GDP) and the United States (3.6% of GDP) are twice as large as the total contributions of EU member states to its own military budget (1.63% of GDP). European arms manufacturers depend on cooperation with American partners. The US is present in the European market of guided bombs, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles, and air-to-air missiles. The US supplies the EU with engines for warships, participates in the joint development of low-profile fighter / bombers of the 5th generation JSF F-35. The share of American arms in the European market reaches 18%.

Related: Make NATO great again: How Trump negotiated NATO military budget in Brussels

Most of the units of the European armies (not counting the French foreign legion) are inferior to American and British counterparts in terms of training and experience of fighting. The participation of European units in military conflicts took place in conjunction with the American and British military. In the military operation in Afghanistan, the United States played the key role, the instrumental role in the military operation in Libya belonged to the United Kingdom. The exception is the military operation in Mali, where the French armed forces played the main role in countering Tuareg and radical Islamists.

Merkel splits the EU

The point of view of Angela Merkel over the future of European-American relations is not the position of the whole European Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe continue to cooperate with Washington in the sphere of security after Donald Trump won as a president. Britain and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are traditionally skeptical of the formation of EU defense structures that duplicate NATO.

Related: War under the Stars and Stripes: Europeans showed Trump benefit from NATO

The situation is fueled by the conflict between Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia with Germany over the placement of refugees from countries in Asia and Africa within the limits of the EU quotas. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe do not want to host immigrants from Muslim countries on the initiative of Angela Merkel, who was supported within the supranational bodies of the EU. Central European countries may simply not want to agree with another "proposal" of the German Chancellor and spoil the established relationship with the US governments. Young European democracies see in this cooperation with the United States and NATO a counterweight to the Russian Federation, which is attempting to influence political processes in the EU.

Related: NATO notes unity of position on Russia in Brussels

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