Almost no ally: Why Germany is increasingly turning away from the United States

13.08.2019

US Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell said that if Germany does not increase its contributions to NATO’s budget, Washington will withdraw the US military to Poland, leaving the Germans unprotected in the face of the “Russian threat”. Why was the reaction in Germany unexpected and what will it lead to?

In the last year, relations between the United States and Germany are experiencing serious turbulence, and the contradictions are growing like a snowball. A few years ago, no one would doubt that Germany is one of the most reliable US allies in Europe, but Washington’s policies are now deepening the split.

Of course, the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream-2 played a large role in this. When it came to sanctions against Russia, Germany, like all of Europe, was in solidarity with the US position. The Germans were required to support restrictions that did not have to adversely affect the German economy. The Germans were required a political position, reinforced by anti-Russian statements, and also - the territory for the deployment of Europe's largest American military contingent.

Germany at the same time believed that, as an ally, had already made the most significant concessions to the Americans, allowing it to also deploy US nuclear weapons on its territory. However, then it became clear that Washington needed more. Berlin could not stand it and for the first time started talking about the fact that the United States is no longer an ally of Germany.

Washington did not even try to agree with its strategic partner. Instead, the United States switched to a whip tactic, trying to intimidate Berlin with new sanctions and punitive measures. The last demarche of the American ambassador to Germany completely annoyed many Germans, and the Bundestag is already showing hostility to Washington.

Defenseless Germany

As expected, new threats were made by a man whom the Germans were already trying to declare persona non grata - Ambassador Richard Grenell. Back in 2018, he was the first US official to expressly say that Germany would inevitably face sanctions for supporting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. With these threats, he provoked a hostile reaction among many politicians and officials in Berlin, but Angela Merkel’s office then did not dare to take radical measures that would mean a direct conflict with Washington.

Grenell continued to put pressure on Berlin. Last Friday, August 9, the ambassador decided to “shame” the Germans again because they were in no hurry to comply with the instruction of US President Donald Trump to increase allocations to NATO to 2% of his country's GDP.

“In fact, it’s simply insulting to believe that US taxpayers should continue to pay more than 50,000 Americans for their stay in Germany, while the Germans continue to spend their income on domestic needs,” Grenell said in an interview with DPA which was then circulated by almost all German media.

The ambassador, however, did not stop at this rebuke and turned to threats. He noted that the United States could withdraw its bases from Germany together with military personnel and deploy them in Poland, leaving the Germans defenseless in the face of the Russian threat. According to Grenell, Poland has already expressed interest in deploying an expanded US contingent on its territory.

Berlin is not embarrassed

However, in the Bundestag this was not answered at all as Mr. Grenell had expected. The reaction of Berlin, albeit not at the level of the Chancellor, followed immediately. Bundestag Left Party leader Dietmar Barch responded to the US ambassador through the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

If the Americans withdraw their soldiers, they must also bring nuclear weapons with them. And, of course, home, and not to Poland, because it would be another dramatic escalation of relations with Russia, which does not meet European and German interests

He agreed that US taxpayers are not required to pay for American soldiers in Germany, nor to pay for the deployment of nuclear weapons there. Thus, already in the Bundestag they are increasingly expressly declaring that Germany does not really need to be “protected” from Moscow, and even at the price that Trump demands.

At the same time, there is every reason to believe that such sentiments in Germany are already systemic. A similar opinion is shared in the right Alternative for Germany.

Having the reaction of the left and right in Germany, we can talk about the formation of anti-American sentiments in the Bundestag. At the same time, we note that the "occupation" of the presence of Americans in Germany is called by a member of the Bundestag committee on international affairs.

Berlin is officially silent, but it is reinforced by what the German authorities are doing, or rather, what they are not doing. That is what becomes the "red rag" for US officials.

Growth of contradictions

As the Wall Street Journal already wrote, according to the German Ministry of Finance, the country now has a military budget of 43 billion euros ($ 49 billion), which corresponds to approximately 1.2% of GDP. In 2020, German defense spending will increase to 1.37% of GDP. But then (and this is the most important) Berlin will begin to reduce spending: to 1.33% of GDP in 2021, 1.29% in 2022 and to 1.25% of GDP in 2023.

In this situation, it would be foolish for Washington to expect that 2% of GDP could be allocated to NATO. Among the reasons economists name, first of all, the slowdown in German economic growth. And the country's ex-defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said that Berlin, although it had promised Washington to increase contributions, would do so in accordance with its capabilities. Angela Merkel's goal was to increase defense spending gradually over the course of ten years. So, this year it is planned to increase them to 1.34% of GDP, and by 2025 - to 1.5%. But Americans need everything at once.

Not only this question is now being added to the treasury of contradictions. In a broader sense, Germany is faced with the task of determining the extent to which it has its own sovereignty and the right to conduct an independent policy. The last time Berlin “snapped” not so long ago, refusing to participate in the US operation to “ensure the safety” of shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Washington wanted to drag Berlin into an active confrontation with Iran, but the Germans did not agree to this, nor did they refuse to abandon Nord Stream 2.

If we recall all the “sharp corners” in the relations between the USA and Germany, then the volume of contradictions is approaching critical. Indeed, back in 2013, thanks to the former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Edward Snowden, it became known that Angela Merkel’s phone was tapped by American intelligence agencies. The Germans then hushed up this case, so as not to spoil the relationship, and also because they allegedly did not find evidence for this.

Now the attitude of the United States towards Germany is becoming apparent. The vassal is obliged to pay “tribute” in the form of deductions for “protection” from Russia, must abandon Nord Stream-2 under the threat of sanctions, must lose economic benefits, must send the Bundeswehr soldier to the point of the world that the US president must provide, must provide its territory for the deployment of missile defense systems, military bases and nuclear weapons. Finally, the Germans are required to comply with sanctions against Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and any other countries, because it is so beneficial to Washington.

Therefore, are the Germans really wrong, who, in turn, ignore Washington’s demands? That is why with increasing criticism of German politics from the United States, not only the opposition in Berlin is growing, but also the scale of its turn to the East, as well as the potential to strengthen the united European policy as opposed to the North Atlantic course.