German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged European countries to think about a new reality when it comes to America’s global clout.
“We grew up in the certain knowledge that the United States wanted to be a world power. Should the US now wish to withdraw from that role of its own free will, we would have to reflect on that very deeply”, Merkel said in an interview with a group of six European newspapers, including The Guardian, on Friday.
Touching upon the American troop presence in Germany, she said that it helps to protect “not only Germany and the European part of NATO but also the interests of the United States of America”.
The chancellor also singled out Berlin’s military spending, saying that “we have to spend more on defence” and that “we have achieved considerable increases in recent years, and we will continue on that path to enhance our military capabilities”.
On NATO, Merkel cited “compelling reasons to remain committed to a transatlantic defence community and our shared nuclear umbrella”, adding that “of course Europe needs to carry more of the burden than during the Cold War”.
Additionally, she mentioned Brexit and argued that Britain will have to “live with the consequences” of Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrapping his predecessor Theresa May’s blueprint to bolster a close economic relationship with the EU after the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.
“We need to let go of the idea that it is for us to define what Britain should want. That is for Britain to define – and we, the EU27, will respond appropriately”, Merkel said.
She warned that “if Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close”.
According to the chancellor, “that will mean it [the UK] does not want standards to go on developing along parallel lines”.
Separately, she underscored the need “to keep engaging in constructive dialogue with Russia”, saying that there are “good reasons for it”.
“In countries like Syria and Libya, countries in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood, Russia’s strategic influence is great. I will therefore continue to strive for cooperation”, Merkel pointed out.
The interview came after US President Donald Trump last week confirmed media reports about American troop reductions in Germany, also accusing the country of being “delinquent in their payments to NATO” and claiming that Berlin owes the alliance billions of dollars.
In early June, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump had directed the Defence Department to move 9,500 US troops, or nearly a third of the contingent in Germany, out of the country.
At present, 34,500 US troops are stationed in Germany, along with 17,000 US civilians and 12,000 German citizens who work at local military bases.
The WSJ added that discussions about the US troop reduction started in September 2019 and the move isn’t linked to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision not to take part in the G7 summit originally scheduled for June.