Germany Can't Fully Rely on White House, Top Diplomat Says

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s foreign minister urged the European Union to “readjust” its relationship with the U.S. and said the bloc can no longer fully rely on the White House after President Donald Trump identified America’s long-term ally as a “foe.”

Trump, who meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, characterized the EU as an adversary, citing a trading relationship that he sees as detrimental to America. His comments to CBS News on Sunday came days after a contentious summit meeting with NATO allies, during which he attacked Germany and other members of the alliance for insufficient military spending.

“If the American president identifies the European Union as a ‘foe,’ this unfortunately shows once more how wide the Atlantic has become in political terms since Donald Trump has been in office,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group in an interview.

The comments reflect those of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has reinforced her statement from May 2017 that Europe’s full reliance on relations with the U.S. since World War II is “to some extent over” -- and that the bloc must take its destiny more into its own hands.

Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, referenced those comments in response to Trump’s latest declaration, while pushing back on the notion that a trade conflict should lead to enmity. Trump on Monday called Russia a “foe in certain respects” and China “a foe economically.”

“That isn’t our view of the relations between the European Union and the U.S.,” Seibert said Monday at a regular government news conference in Berlin. “On the contrary, there are many strong reasons for good trans-Atlantic relations.”

Maas, a member of Germany’s Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said that nations must stand together “in a self-confident and sovereign Europe.” EU member states mustn’t allow themselves to be divided, “no matter how harsh the verbal attacks and how absurd the tweets may be.”

“In order to preserve our partnership with the U.S., we need to readjust,” Maas said.

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