German foreign minister Heiko Maas said that even if president Donald Trump lost the US election in November, it did not follow that relations between Germany and the US would automatically improve.
"Everyone who thinks everything in the transatlantic partnership will be as it once was with a Democratic president underestimates the structural changes,” Maas said in an interview with the German Press Agency (DPA), published on Sunday (28 June).
"The transatlantic relations are extraordinarily important, they remain important, and we are working to ensure they have a future," Maas said. "But with the way they are now, they are no longer fulfilling the demands both sides have of them."
German chancellor Angela Merkel said in an interview with several leading European newspapers, including The Guardian, last week that the world can no longer take it for granted that the US wants to be a global leader.
“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.
Trump has targeted Germany repeatedly since he took office over a number of issues. He has criticised the country’s trade deficit and threatened to slap US tariffs on German cars. Trump is also vehemently opposed to the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline being built from Russia to Germany, and approved sanctions on companies involved in the project in December 2019.
Trump’s biggest bugbear when it comes to Germany is its financial contributions to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) — he has demanded that they be increased to 2% of the country’s GDP. Currently, German is aiming to increase its contribution to 1.5% by 2024.
This month, Trump confirmed plans to withdraw around 9,500 of the 35,000 US troops stationed in US bases in Germany. Trump said in a cabinet meeting about the troop withdrawal that “we're protecting Germany and they're delinquent. That doesn't make sense. So I said, we're going to bring down the count to 25,000 soldiers."
“American troops in Germany help to protect not only Germany and the European part of NATO but also the interests of the United States of America,” Merkel said in the wide-ranging interview last week.
She did however, acknowledge that Germany needed to up its military spending, saying: “We in Germany know that we have to spend more on defence; we have achieved considerable increases in recent years, and we will continue on that path to enhance our military capabilities.”