German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday warned that Europeans “must take our fate into our own hands,” suggesting that President Trump’s visit last week — and his contentious relations with the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) — show that the days when Europe could rely on others were “over to a certain extent.”
Speaking at a campaign rally in a packed Bavarian beer hall, Merkel told the crowd, “This is what I have experienced in the last few days,” The Washington Post reported.
Merkel never mentioned Trump by name, but the remarks seemed a clear response to the president’s trip, which included a fraught Group of Seven summit.
Trump has refused to endorse the Paris climate agreement, and has said he wants a 35% import tax on BMWs assembled in Mexico to encourage manufacturers to move to the U.S. On Thursday, he told EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk, “The Germans are bad, very bad,” German news magazine Der Spiegel reported. “Look at the millions of cars they’re selling in the U.S. Terrible,” he reportedly said. “We will stop this.”
Last March, Merkel reminded Trump that the U.S. can’t negotiate a deal with Germany alone — it must deal with the entire EU, since Germany is a member state. She told him at the time that trade agreements with the U.S. have “not always been all that popular in Germany either.”
Also on Thursday, in a speech at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Trump failed to explicitly endorse the military alliance’s commitment to collective defense, even as he called on other leaders to spend more money on security.
Trump has never formally endorsed the NATO treaty’s Article 5 commitment that an attack on one member country will be treated as an attack on all, making his silence on the subject in an address Thursday especially striking. The president who has touted an “America First” foreign policy did, however, refer more generally to “the commitments that bind us together as one” and promised to “never forsake the friends who stood by our side.”
After the speech, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said it should have been assumed that Trump backed Article 5, given the fact he was speaking at the dedication of a memorial to it. “We’re not playing cutesy with this. He’s fully committed,” Spicer told reporters. “There’s 100 percent commitment to Article 5.”
After returning to the U.S., Trump on Sunday tweeted that the nine-day trip “was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”
But Merkel apparently thought differently. Campaigning for a fourth term in elections that take place this September, she also referenced Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union, telling a crowd in Munich, “The times in which we could rely fully on others, they are somewhat over,” The New York Times reported.
Trump critic Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, tweeted: “Merkel’s comments today are a reminder that Trump’s failures are, while he’s president, also America’s failure, and damage America.”
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, also a frequent Trump critic, was more blunt. He called the trip “a catastrophe for U.S.-Europe Relations” and tweeted: “Since 1945, the supreme strategic goal in Europe of the USSR and then Russia was the severing of the US-German alliance. Trump delivered.”
Merkel said Europe must stand up for its own interests and be more self-reliant on defense, among other issues. “We have to know that we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”
The White House has said Trump was getting wide-ranging advice on what to do about the Paris climate pact, which requires nearly 200 nations to commit to voluntary plans to reduce carbon emissions.
Some Trump aides want the U.S. to withdraw, saying the accord’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gases in future years will damage the U.S. energy industry. Others say the U.S. should stay in the accord in order to shape the debate over climate change and avoid diplomatic problems associated by withdrawal.
Merkel said the climate discussion during the summit “was very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory. There’s a situation where it’s six — if you count the European Union, seven — against one,” The Times reported.