Germany and the U.S. : The end of an era

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Does that look like the “fairly unbelievable“ relationship Sean Spicer is talking about? Bild: AP

Angela Merkel’s distancing of her nation from America is an “era-defining moment”. But don’t blame her: It’s only the natural, and tragic, response to an historically illiterate, amoral American president.

          5 Min.

          Since 1945, a chief foreign policy objective of the Soviet Union, and then Russia, has been to divide Germany and the United States. Initially, the Soviets pursued this strategy in a literal sense, by unilaterally creating a communist puppet state in East Germany. Then, Moscow attempted to prevent the Western allies access to Berlin. In 1961, the Soviets built a wall dividing the city. Moscow undertook all these gambits to pressure America into conceding that preserving a free and independent Federal Republic of Germany, strongly anchored in the West, was not worth the effort. Yet Soviet attempts to drive a wedge between the United States and Germany had the opposite effect. From the heroic Berlin Airlift (which kept the Western half of the city alive throughout an 11 month-long Soviet blockade) to landmark speeches by John F. Kennedy (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and Ronald Reagan (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”), Soviet aggression only hardened American resolve.

          Throughout the Cold War, a longing for strategic nonalignment, pacifism, deeply-ingrained cultural anti-Americanism and postwar guilt towards the Soviet Union all provided fertile ground for Kremlin efforts at neutralizing West Germany. Due to his policy of Westbindung, or binding Germany to the West, Konrad Adenauer earned himself the sobriquet “Chancellor of the Allies” from his political opponents. The Federal Republic’s joining NATO was hotly contested; many Germans preferred reunification with the East and neutrality on Josef Stalin’s terms to taking the Western side in what JFK termed a “Twilight Struggle.” Mass German resistance to American foreign policy came to a head with the Euro-Missile crisis of the early 1980’s, when the German Bundestag barely approved the positioning of nuclear-tipped NATO warheads on its territory. To this day, the largest demonstrations in postwar German history were those protesting this deployment.

          Given its sheer size and geographic location at the center of East-West confrontation, Germany was America’s most important European ally during the Cold War. And, long after the Cold War ended, this partnership remains our most important in continental Europe. Though it is no longer the American protectorate of yore, Germany is still heavily reliant upon the United States for its security and economic well-being, and the United States continues to station tens of thousands of soldiers on German soil.

          Russia aims at arousing the anti-American sentiment

          And as it once again seeks to divide the West against itself, post-Soviet Russia has revived its efforts to split Germany from the United States. The most sophisticated, recent example of this strategy was the Edward Snowden imbroglio, which, while intended to harm the reputation of the United States generally, was aimed specifically at arousing anti-American sentiment in Europe’s biggest country and economic powerhouse. Of all the nations in the world where the National Security Agency conducts operations, it was those in Germany (like the alleged hacking of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone) that elicited the most outrage. This outsized reaction was explainable not only by unique German sensitivities concerning surveillance matters, but a deliberate strategy on the part of Snowden’s handlers in Russia to ensure the maximum possible damage to American interests.      

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