Under President Trump, America is calling the postwar values common to the U.S. and Europe into question: That’s why it’s high time to chart a new foreign policy after Atlanticism.
One could almost be grateful to Donald Trump: By undermining the transatlantic partnership, he has heightened Germans’ recognition of how much this relationship has benefitted them. No other country has so profited from the American-led world order more than the Federal Republic. Atlanticism was the umbrella under which politically and morally ruined Germany could be rehabilitated and re-integrated into the West. Being anchored in the West, along with Germany’s division, allayed the fears of Germany's neighbors, and finally dispensed with the European nightmare known as the German question.
It was through the transatlantic partnership that West
Germany, and after unification the whole country, accessed Western modernism
with its three core elements: capitalism, cultural liberalism, and the concept
of (for Germany, the decisively new) pro-active, self-confident citizenship.
This contributed to the end of the German militarism, worship of the state, and
the mentality of subservience.
In addition, German received a security architecture
in NATO, a status that enabled it to participate in the officially demonized
nuclear weapons regime. And the Americans could live with the Germans’ cultural
arrogance, which supposedly stood in contrast to the Americans’ ostensibly
superficial lifestyle. They endured the
anti-Americanism and bet on the soft power of their attractive social model.
All of this resonates today when it comes to the future of the transatlantic
But now the whole situation has been reversed in a crazy way.
Today Atlanticists have to deal with the paradox that the attack on the
foundations of the liberal international world order founded by America comes
from the White House. In the West Wing sits a nationalist and confessed enemy
of multilateral politics, one who sympathizes with authoritarian leaders and
undermines the EU by supporting Brexit.
The fact that the constants and principles of German
foreign policy -- European integration, multilateralism, engagement in the name
of human rights and the rule of law, rule-based globalization -- are questioned
by the American government constitutes an enormous intellectual and strategic
challenge. In the future, Europe now, out of necessity, has to do this by
itself without the aid of the U.S., or perhaps even against the U.S.
It’s ridiculous to believe that Angela Merkel should
compensate for the failure of the U.S. president by assuming the mantle of
"leader of the free world." And yet there’s a kernel of something
there: Germany, more than other actors, is tied to the liberal international
order. This is the new German question: Germany is so large that it cannot
flourish without this order, and yet it’s too small to guarantee it alone. For
the foreseeable future, German foreign policy will suffer this contradiction.
Since the previous guarantor of this order is becoming increasingly irrelevant,
the question of the Germany’s contribution has to be posed is radically anew.
Those who think we can just wait for the U.S. to
return to its old role after Trump are deceiving themselves. Indeed, the
transatlantic crisis didn’t begin with Trump, and will not end with Trump. Why
don‘t the Atlanticists want to see this?
In other words: When did the Atlanticists lose touch
with reality? The exact date can’t be determined. But at the latest on June 16,
2015, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy. At this moment, a strange
mechanism began to take effect: above all those in the German public who know a
lot about the U.S. were spectacularly blindsided.
With the self-certainty of know-it-alls, it was said
that Donald Trump could never become the presidential candidate of the
Republicans, because after the primaries the party brass would erase such a
Then, with sophisticated swing-state surveys, it was absolutely certain that Trump could never be elected President of the United States. Wrong again.