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Tolerating Trump's tantrums

Barbara Wesel Kommentarbild App *PROVISORISCH*
Barbara Wesel
June 17, 2020

Even if US President Donald Trump is hopping mad and rudely criticizing Germany again, it isn't worth reacting to him. Nothing is going to change before the US election in November, DW's Barbara Wesel writes.

US: Donald Trump
Image: Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm

For over three years now, Germans have listened to US President Donald Trump talk about the NATO contributions that Germany supposedly doesn't pay and how the country is taking advantage of the United States in matters of trade. The insults are ridiculous and shameless. But, that is the way Trump is: He wouldn't know the truth if it bit him on the nose.

Germans have readily admitted that the country has not spent enough on defense over the past few decades. And it is clear that this is directly linked to German history. But, as the prospects of a future of unarmed pacifism have dimmed, the country's defense spending has steadily increased. Still, funds must be spent sensibly and not thrown out the window for every new US weapons system — even though that, of course, is the way Trump would like to see things go.

Barbara Wesel
DW's Barbara Wesel

When Trump starts up with his NATO nonsense for the umpteenth time, claiming that the United States is being taken advantage of, it is clear that it is nothing more than campaign rhetoric. Trump is desperately trying to divert attention from his disastrous coronavirus policies, or more accurately, a total lack of policy: Nearly 120,000 Americans have died in less than three months, the reopening of the country was premature, and, for as long as they were held, the White House briefings during the crisis were nothing short of shocking — anyone want a shot of disinfectant?

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic further strains US-China relations

Thus, it makes total sense that Trump is making a scene about pulling US troops from Germany now. And no one should be surprised that the former US ambassador to and avowed enemy of Germany, Richard Grenell, played an outsize role in this overly clever new plan. Grenell's odious behavior while in Berlin says everything one needs to know about his mindset. Still, this populist nonsense may well garner cheers from Trump base who desperately want to believe every lie the president tells them despite all fact-checking.

One such lie is that dark forces are lined up in opposition to the United States. And one enemy is clearly sitting in Berlin. No wonder, Trump doesn't like democracies — preferring instead to throw himself into the embrace of dictators. His buddies are Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kim Jong Un. Clearly, he is much more fond of Chinese President Xi Jinping than he is of Angela Merkel.

Read more: Europeans turn out to protest police violence in US

Envy and resentment

Trump's constant threat of trade sanctions have simply grown annoying. If he thinks the US is exporting too little, then he should direct US companies to make better products. Moreover, he never mentions the global dominance of companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft or Amazon in his tirades. Still, if others can't break into the market that must mean that they clearly aren't competitive. When it comes to food, one can only say: Dear friends, eat your chlorinated chicken and genetically modified plants yourself! Or sell them to the British — they seem ready to compromise.

But why should Germany buy expensive US gas, fracked and then shipped halfway around the world, when it can get natural gas from a neighbor? Admittedly, that particular deal was signed at a time when people believed that partnership with Russia was possible. Still, does that mean the entire Nord Stream 2 project should be scrapped — something that may indeed become a geopolitical necessity — just because that's what Trump wants?       

Ultimately, all of the rational arguments against the removal of US troops, against punitive tariffs on French wine and German cars, and for independent decision-making on energy supply have been sufficiently debated. Thus, the only thing that will emanate from Washington DC over the next few months will be the outbursts of an emotionally incontinent president — everything else is just election campaigning.

It is simply not worth the effort to discuss whether the United States is still a reliable ally nor to craft a diplomatic response to the US president's latest fit. One should do as German Chancellor Angela Merkel does: ignore the bluster. Germans will just have to wait and see what the US presidential election brings in November. Many across the European Union are hoping and praying that the United States will elect a new president. Until then, however, we'll just have to keep calm.

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