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By Will Racke
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not backing away from statements she made Sunday questioning the nature of Germany’s relationship with the U.S. and urging Europeans to “take fate into our own hands.”
Merkel’s remarks were meant to signal a new way of approaching transatlantic relations with both the U.S. and the U.K. as the latter prepares to leave the E.U., a spokesman for the German leader confirmed on Monday.
“The chancellor’s words stand on their own — they were clear and comprehensible,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters at a news conference in Berlin.
Merkel called into question the nature of Germany’s relationship to Anglo-American allies at the conclusion of the G-7 summit in Italy, saying that the days when Europe could completely rely on others were “over to a certain extent.” The turnabout came after President Donald Trump publicly bashed NATO allies for not spending enough on the military alliance and confronted Germany over its trade surpluses with the U.S. and other trading partners.
“I have experienced this in the last few days,” she said, referring to a series of meetings with Trump and other world leaders. “And that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands — of course in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain and as good neighbors wherever that is possible also with other countries, even with Russia.”
The remarks stunned foreign policy observers on both sides of the Atlantic. Many are worried that Germany’s new perspective — along with Trump’s “America First” approach to international relations and the U.K.’s divorce from the EU — threatens to upend the post-WWII order that has provided stability in Europe for more than 70 years.
Merkel’s statements are a “watershed” moment in world history, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas said Sunday.
Merkel saying Europe cannot rely on others & needs to take matters into its own hands is a watershed-& what US has sought to avoid since WW2
— Richard N. Haass (@RichardHaass) May 28, 2017
Seibert tried to assuage such fears, assuring reporters that Merkel remains a “deeply convinced” supporter of the transatlantic alliance between Germany and the US.
“Those of you who have reported on the chancellor for a long time will know how important German-American relations are to her,” he said. “They are a firm pillar of our foreign and security policy, and Germany will continue to work to strengthen these relations.”