The rest of the world can no longer take it for granted that the United States still aspires to be a world leader and must readjust their priorities accordingly, Angela Merkel has warned.
“We grew up knowing that the United States wanted to be a world power,” said the Chancellor in an interview with a group of six European newspapers, including the Guardian.
“If the United States now wishes to withdraw from this role of its own free will, we will have to think about it very deeply.”
Merkel, the first German leader to grow up on the east side of the Iron Curtain, has often spoken in the past of her admiration for the global influence of the United States. When she spoke before Congress in 2009, Merkel spoke of the “incredible gift of freedom” given to the East Germans with the overthrow of the Berlin Wall supported by the United States.
But even during Barack Obama’s presidency, Merkel saw his government repeatedly chastised for low military spending – criticism which has intensified under Donald Trump, who recently confirmed his intention to withdraw 9,500 American soldiers from bases in Germany.
In an interview with the Guardian, Germany Süddeutsche Zeitung, France Le Monde, Spain La Vanguardia, Italy La Stampa and Poland Polityka, Merkel said that the US military presence in the center Europe was in the interest of the United States.
“American troops in Germany help protect not only Germany and the European part of NATO, but also the interests of the United States of America, “said the Chancellor.
Speaking of Germany’s military spending, Merkel said: “We in Germany know that we need to spend more on defense; we have made significant increases in recent years and will continue to do so to strengthen our military capabilities. “
But “thinking very deeply” for Merkel does not seem to constitute an endorsement of what French President Emmanuel Macron has called European “strategic autonomy”, the ability to defend the continent without depending on the United States.
“Look at the world; look at China or India, “said Merkel. “There are compelling reasons to remain committed to a transatlantic defense community and to our common nuclear umbrella. But of course, Europe has to carry more loads than during the Cold War. “
When asked if Germany had underestimated the threat posed by Russia, Merkel acknowledged a pattern of belligerent behavior, citing “disinformation campaigns” and the murder of Chechen exile Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin, that German prosecutors accuse Moscow of having ordered.
“The murder in Tiergarten park in Berlin is a serious incident, of course, the fault of which is currently confirmed in the courts,” said the Chancellor. “In any case, we recognize hybrid warfare, methods of destabilization, as a model of Russian behavior.”
“On the other hand, there are good reasons to pursue a constructive dialogue with Russia. In countries like Syria and Libya, which are Europe’s immediate neighbors, Russia’s strategic influence is great. I will therefore continue to fight for cooperation. “