Biden might find alliance harder after Merkel

  • The election results in Germany mean that a political realignment is looming.
  • Josh Groeneveld, a writer for Insider’s German sister site, explains how this could affect the United States.
  • The German elite are suspicious of the United States after four years of Trump and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Angela Merkel’s time in charge of Germany is drawing to a close. After 16 years of government as Chancellor, she will hold out for a few more weeks or months, until a new German government is formed.

For the first time, Germany could be led by a tripartite coalition instead of two.

The most likely outcome is a coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD) with the Greens and the liberal FDP party. That would make Merkel’s Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz (think a moderate version of Bernie Sanders) the new Chancellor.

(Less likely is a coalition of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), along with the Greens and the FDP. It would be led by Merkel’s successor, Armin Laschet, a young fellow like Joe Biden under whom the party has retreated in the polls. .)

The exact form is unclear – it can take months for an administration to form – but whatever the outcome, Germany’s relationship with the United States is struggling ahead.

All is not great after Trump

Right now, many in Germany are disappointed with the Biden administration.

Almost all democratic political parties in Germany regard the United States as the country’s most important ally; the left party Die Linke being the exception.

Joe Biden Angela Merkel

Joe Biden with Angela Merkel.

Andreas Gebert / photo alliance via Getty Images

However, the general feeling in Berlin after four years of Donald Trump’s blackout is that the current diplomatic dialogue has not regained the level of confidence of the Obama years.

The German administration fears that US isolationism will continue under Biden – a concern that will persist regardless of which parties end up taking control.

The chaotic withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan deepened this sentiment among the German political, diplomatic and military elite.

When US forces resumed operations at Kabul airport during the August evacuation, they did not consult the allies.

US soldiers stand guard along a perimeter at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan,

A scene from the evacuation at Kabul International Airport during the US withdrawal. The allies felt left behind as the chaotic process unfolded.

Shekib Rahmani / AP

Other NATO partners had to share access to one evacuation flight per hour. The Americans made decisions unilaterally.

In Germany, this was met with anger bordering on fury. A senior diplomat from the German Foreign Ministry called the US behavior a “disaster.”

In its wake, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for a “paradigm shift” in NATO during a closed-door meeting with the German parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, according to those present.

Even within the defense committee of the conservative CDU, Germany’s most pro-American party, people were dismayed by the American solo race in Afghanistan.

The new German government may well internalize this anger. While Laschet and Scholz would both be highly devoted chancellors to an American alliance, their parties – and their potential coalition partners, the Greens and Liberals – could prove difficult.

Senior officials in Scholz’s SPD are quite critical of what they see as excessive US interference in international affairs.

Some, like SPD leader in parliament Rolf Mützenich, have openly questioned the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Germany, for example.

The American Embassy in Berlin

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin in 2013.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

An SPD-led coalition could cut military spending to fund national priorities or climate change measures, rekindling long-standing complaints from the United States that Germany is going after it relying on it. the United States to defend Europe.

On the CDU side, military spending is not an issue, but the focus has been on Europe freeing itself from dependence on US defense via a European army – a dream of long-standing for many in Germany and France.

Stasis in the EU

But the idea of ​​the military – and any other drastic realignment of Germany’s position on the United States – would only be possible with an agreement between the 27 countries of the European Union.

As it stands, member states are far from a consensus on a security union, which means the United States will continue to be prominent.

You can imagine the EU as the Democratic caucus in the US Senate: yes, there are issues that all 28 member states can agree on after much negotiation – but the EU also has its Joe Manchins and Kyrsten Sinemas.

For Germany, this means dependence on the United States and NATO for the foreseeable future.

European Parliament

A scene in the European Parliament.

Christopher Furlong / Getty

It also means that the Republic of Germany and the EU need the United States and its allies like Japan, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to counter the geopolitical efforts of Russia and China. .

Although these are common goals for the United States and Germany, the means to achieve these goals may vary.

A German government led by Laschet or Scholz would likely not join hawkish efforts against Moscow or Beijing – although their coalition partners might call for a tougher tone.

It would also remain both a competitor and a trading partner of the United States. So, as under Merkel, Germany will remain the smallest and weakest partner in a strained transatlantic alliance with no alternatives. He will probably be more unhappy with this fact than ever.

Josh Groeneveld covers politics for Business Insider Deutschland.

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