Thirdly, the Atlanticists are of the opinion that Germany, which currently stabilizes the EU, is not as stable as it appears. This may be so, but this skepticism can’t hide the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing the worst possible democratic regression of all of the great Western nations and that it is sowing instability for the rest of the world.

The central messages of the Atlanticists for the European and German public were always: What happens today in the U.S. will come to you in just a few years – prepare yourselves! Today one can only say: hopefully not, and adjust to prevent it to the best of our ability. The second central message was: In the U.S., all the craziness (epidemic arms ownership, the gap between rich and poor, the death penalty, the asocial health system, the elitist educational system, the democracy-crippling dominance of Wall Street, widespread racism, exaggerated nationalism, horrendous energy consumption, religious sectarianism -- to name but a few) could eventually come around to something more or less sensible.

In Germany, on the other hand, it is exactly the opposite: as matter-of-fact and sensible as Germany looks, beneath this veneer is hysteria, German angst, the Incertitudes Allemandes, and so on. Let’s go with this picture of Germany: for a while now, the U.S.’s illnesses no longer contributed something healthy; the strong positive and reasonable forces there can no longer counter the dangerous drift.

In this situation, it would be adventurous were Germany and Europe to hope that there could be a re-emergence of Atlanticism. Here we don’t desist, that is if there were to be a renewed Atlantic alliance without American leadership and with a fundamentally different understanding of Western foreign policy. It could be called neo-Atlanticism or the post-American West, or whatever. What counts is the content.

What then would the outlines of a post-Atlantic Western policy look like?

A list of new foreign policy priorities could thus begin like this: support France without condescending to it; manage Brexit without punitive fantasies; limit Trump’s damage to the West; rigorously defend against Russia's aggression; keep Turkey in the European game; reduce the appeal of Europe to Africa's aspiring population and simultaneously allow for controlled immigration; bring in China, wherever it is indispensable (free trade, climate policy, North Korean crisis), and confront where it acts unfairly (intellectual property, dispute in the South China Sea, human rights.)

German foreign policy will increasingly have to do things at the same time that are contradictory at first sight. For example: Germany has to spend a lot of money on (and in) Europe; deal resolutely with the European neighbors in the east who clearly oppose the softening of the liberal order, but not with the attitude of the über-democratic schoolmarm. Give more Africans legal chances in Europe, while at the same time better protect the borders. Take a stand against the authoritarian metamorphosis in Ankara, and yet design in advance an active Turkey policy for the post-Erdoğan era. In short, in European affairs Germans must be more accommodating and tougher at the same time.

Germany has little experience in strategic foreign policy because for a long time it could enjoy a framework guaranteed by others. Now there’s a new demand because Western policy is off the tracks. Berlin can’t just sit back and watch while others do the heavy lifting.  Indeed, today the others look first at what Berlin is doing.

Act more confidently, fine-tune strategic thinking. Yet, there’s something else, perhaps the most demanding. In a sense, the West – including Europe and Germany -- must reinvent international politics. After all, it’s not just that the U.S. has grown weak; the rest of the world has grown stronger. Now, long-drawn-out and seldom addressed questions crop up: How can one insist on the universal validity of human rights while at the same time giving up one’s own supremacy claim? Or, positively expressed: What happens when countries which are democratic  cease to act autocratically in world affairs? More practically: what effect could it have if the gap between the depth of intervention and the depth of knowledge in Western politics were no longer so great, if the interveners were interested in detail in the countries and people that they seek to influence and change?

Visiting Germany, Emmanuel Macron, summed it all up when talking about the Middle East: "We’ve failed to think about this region in our neighborhood in terms any different than do neoconservatives." Europe had failed to develop alternative foreign policies. Now it can. Because it has to.

One more thing: All this only applies if the U.S. does not start a war against Iran or North Korea. For in this case, the new transatlantic distance would grow into a geopolitical conflict of the first order. With Trump’s first shot, the West would be dead.

Translated by Paul Hockenos