for closer US-Russian relations.
If he turns the off-the-cuff remark into US policy, Mr Trump would try fundamentally overhauling the post-World War II global power dynamic that saw Western countries bring Germany into their sphere while combating Moscow and fighting the spread of communism in the post-war era. But with little opposition to the American-German alliance in Congress, especially the GOP-run Senate, such a plan would face ample pushback – including from within his own party.
Mr Trump, during another wildly cascading “Fox & Friends” call-in, launched into a remarkable diatribe about Germany and Russia – and how the United States should treat each country – after being asked about what he and Russian President Vladimir Putin would discuss during a planned telephone conversation Monday morning.
The American leader repeated his long-espoused view that it would be a “good thing” if Washington and Moscow had a warmer relationship, noting he has been saying so since he was first a presidential candidate. Despite his five-year-old contention, the Cold War adversaries remain rivals on the global stage.
“They also fought World War II. They lost 50 million people,” Mr Trump said of Russia, then the Soviet Union.
“Germany was the enemy. … And Germany’s [now], like, this wonderful thing,” he added, suggesting the now-democratic European power is not-so wonderful in his eyes.
In true Trumpian form, he attempted to give himself some distance from the suggestion, saying of his Germanic ancestry: “Look, it’s fine,” Mr Trump said of US-German relations. “It’s in my heritage.”
The US president has grown frustrated at times with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was close with former President Barack Obama and has not always followed Mr Trump’s demands or advice.
Notably, Ms Merkel in 2018 called on NATO to have a tougher stance against Russia. At home, her Christian Democratic Union political party typically proposes the toughest policy prescriptions for how to deal with Mr. Putin’s government.
Mattia Nelles, of the nonpartisan Atlantic Council, has written about a “typical German desire to be on good terms with Russia.”
After all, Germany imports $22bn in energy products from Russia, according to ComTrade and TradingEconomics.com. It also buys billions more in copper, aluminum, steel and other crucial materials from Russia, making the relationship one of economic necessity for Berlin.
Despite Mr Trump’s veiled call for countries to treat Germany as more foe than friend, Ms Nells’ has written that the widespread German view of warm relations with Mr Putin’s government “generally is in line with the EU’s Russia policy and involves criticising Russia for its illegal activities and pushing back through sanctions, while at the same time trying to engage through trade and civil society or cultural cooperation.”
Heather Conley, a former senior State Department official now with the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently called Mr Trump’s coronavirus foreign policy approach “personality-driven” and “blame-driven” and “devastating,” saying it “has great real-world implications for America’s leadership in the world and our allies and partners.
“What happens if you don’t like Angela Merkel of Germany? And so this personality dynamic is the new normal, unfortunately,” she said on a recent call with reporters. “And it completely neuters the institutions and all the relationships that make the types and the mechanics of crises like these work.”