Germany Says Trump's U.S. `Withdrawal' Means Europe Must Step Up

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. under President Donald Trump is losing its ability to shape global events, requiring Germany and France to jointly assert European interests, according to Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s acting foreign minister.

“It’s clear that for the U.S., the world is no longer a global community, but an arena in which nations, non-state actors and companies fight to take advantage,” Gabriel, serving in a caretaker capacity until Chancellor Angela Merkel forms a new government, said in a speech in Berlin on Tuesday. “We’re seeing a weakened projection of order by the U.S.”

Germany Says Trump's U.S. `Withdrawal' Means Europe Must Step Up

Gabriel expressed concern that the U.S. “withdrawal” from its role as a guarantor of western values is allowing countries such as China and Russia to fill the space the U.S. occupied in the post-World War II order. The absence of Germany’s strongest ally poses a risk that “forces us to act,” he said.

Fresh from talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, Gabriel voiced the growing disenchantment in Europe’s largest economy with foreign policy under Trump, whose “America First” approach includes the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, demands for NATO allies to pay up and upending of trade agreements. Merkel set the tone in May, when she declared that U.S. reliability for Germany was “to some extent over.”

European Counterweight?

As China and Russia exploit waning U.S. influence to project power in areas such as Syria and supply chains across Asia, the European Union must do the same, led by Germany and France, Gabriel said.

“Only if the European Union defines its own interest and projects its own power can it survive,” Gabriel said.

A Social Democrat, Gabriel echoed his party’s pro-French position in heaping praise on President Emmanuel Macron. The Social Democrats are embracing Macron’s calls to drive forward EU integration as itconsiders coalition talks with Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc.

That doesn’t mean a blank check for Macron, according to Gabriel. While Germany should shed more of its postwar restraint and be more assertive on security policy, France should adopt some of the same German reservations on joint EU transfer spending.

“Perhaps on financial policy, France should become more German -- and on security policy, Germany should become more French,” Gabriel said.

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