Henry Kissinger was recently asked if Donald Trump could not unintentionally become the force behind the birth of a new western order. His answer: It would be ironic but not impossible. Instead of narrowing our view across the Atlantic to the ever-changing whims of the American President, we should adopt the idea that this could be the start of something new. We can’t not hear what’s going on across the Atlantic every day via Twitter. But a tunnel view into the Oval Office distracts from the fact that America is more than Trump. “Checks and balances” work, as US courts and Congress demonstrate almost daily. The Americans are debating politics with new passion. That too is America in 2018.
The fact that the Atlantic has widened politically is by no means solely due to Donald Trump. The US and Europe have been drifting apart for years. The overlapping of values and interests that shaped our relationship for two generations is decreasing. The binding force of the East-West conflict is history. These changes began well before Trump’s election — and will survive his presidency well into the future. That is why I am skeptical when some ardent trans-Atlanticist simply advises us to sit this presidency out.
Since the end of the Second World War, the partnership with the US has brought Germany a unique phase of peace and security. America became a place of longing. For me too, when I traveled from New York to LA over a few months as a high-school graduate, with Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” in my pocket and Bruce Springsteen’s music in my ears. But looking back does not lead to the future. It is high time to reassess our partnership — not to leave it behind, but to renew and preserve it.
Let’s use the idea of a balanced partnership as a blueprint, where we assume our equal share of responsibility. In which we form a counterweight when the US crosses the line. Where we put our weight when America retreats. And in which we can start a new conversation.
If we go it alone, we will fail in this task.