Nils Annen, Secretary of State at the State Department, talks about the state of the transatlantic relationship and how the United States has changed over the past decade.
here elseWhen was the last time in United States of America It was still raging Donald Trump in the White House. I’m now back in discussions with parliamentarians and government representatives after a coronavirus-related travel break. How do you feel about your last business trip Atlantic?
Nils whine: First of all, I am really happy to be back here. You can read a lot, but if you don’t have a conversation here now and then, you don’t have a complete picture of the mood. I also lived and worked here once. This is one of the reasons why it is so nice to come back. But the situation is tense and the president is under pressure and it seems that the honeymoon is over.
in your time in Washington Rule Barack ObamaTea party propaganda Sarah Palin Hunts on the right side of the Republicans. how did they do United States of America changed in the last decade?
else: The trenches became much deeper. At the time, I saw the height of the controversy over health care reform from Barack Obama. It shocked me how irrational even at that time. But at least there was still a Republican party that not only consisted of Palin but was looking for a conservative way in the middle. Unfortunately, not much of this GOP is left. This is a bitter realization and means that if political majorities change, the fundamental thrust of foreign policy can change. This was not the case in previous decades. Yes, “America is back.” But this does not mean that there can be no return to Donald Trump. We have to take this into account in our analyses.
already under Obama It was clear that Europe No longer at the center of foreign policy interests United States of America Situations. Donald Trump he is Europe met with open hostility. Joe Biden Friendly tone, but focuses strategically on the Indo-Pacific region. What does this mean for transatlantic relations?
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else: We cannot ignore the fact that weights in world politics are changing and that economic dynamics are taking place strongly in the Indo-Pacific region. This is why we must seize the opportunity presented by Joe Biden as a president who knows the value of alliances for close coordination in the Indo-Pacific as well. The Federal government Putting a new focus on the Indo-Pacific Guidelines. There is a lot of interest here. I sometimes have the impression that the voyage of the frigate Bavaria is more closely followed in Washington than in Berlin.
But the frigate does little to prevent loss of meaning Europe.
else: One thing is clear: we in Europe must take a closer look at our own affairs. The four years of focus on Trump and Joe Biden show that we have no time to waste.
But in Washington Many have the impression that Europe Don’t really go. your own party SPD, still struggling with the agreed 2% target Then, so far refused to equip Armed forces armed Drones Who, the leader of the parliamentary group Rolf Mutzenich It even has a German role in nuclear deterrence Then question. how should Europe So take more responsibility?
else: Now wait a minute! I think what the coalition agreement will look like in a few days will leave your question behind.
This means that: SPD He gives their resistance to armed men Drones employment?
else: I cannot and will not say anything about the details of today’s coalition agreement. But Olaf Schultz has made it clear that he favors a high degree of continuity in foreign policy. He made a clear commitment to NATO and Alliance commitments. I conveyed this message here in good conscience during my conversations.
What expectations did your American interlocutors have about the new traffic light government?
else: There is great expectation here to work closely with a strong federal government that understands its political and economic role in Europe. We share this desire. Because of the current developments, we have a lot about the situation in Russia and Ukraine to speak. I took the opportunity to point out again what Germany has been doing for democracy in Ukraine for many years. This seems to be Washington’s best kept secret at times.
also under Joe Biden The transatlantic relationship is not without tensions. So the US government withdrew Afghanistan It was carried out abruptly and chaotically. Are you happy with the way allies are going Washington Included or rather: not included?
else: I didn’t come here to complain. It was clear to us: if the Americans withdrew, the German army would also have to withdraw. The president made this decision. Now we have to look forward and try to make the most of this difficult situation.
But the mistakes of the German withdrawal were not only local?
else: Remarkably, all the governments that got involved in Afghanistan and had to withdraw their forces faced the same domestic political allegations. This suggests that the German government is not alone in misjudgment.
On the contrary, the Nord Stream 2nd President’s Baltic Sea pipeline is a constant nuisance from an American point of view. Biden Sanctions have been suspended, but given the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, there is now a serious effort in the Senate for a new attempt to punish the pipeline. How dangerous is this to the project?
else: I am not the official spokesperson for the project. I think this sometimes gets a little distorted in Washington.
We are interested in your political assessment.
else: My sobering observation is that we have reason to worry about developments on the Russian-Ukrainian border. We talk about this with our American partners, our services exchange ideas and we coordinate our policies. Part of the overall picture is that the Russian side has so far maintained its commitments regarding energy supplies. That is why I advise against politicizing the Nord Stream 2 project in this case. We have a good deal with us. We carry out the agreed projects there together. So the argument weakens both sides. By the way, in the case of the renewal of sanctions in Germany, the question will certainly arise about what is the point of reaching agreements with the US government if Congress nevertheless decides to impose new sanctions after that.
This doesn’t seem to bother influential Republicans or Senate Democrats much. How can Germany Defending against sanctions?
else: I don’t want to answer this hypothetical question. But I get the impression that regardless of Nord Stream, there is little interest among Democrats in taking a tool from their president. There is an understandable argument here in Washington: Sanctions essentially call into question Germany’s sovereign decision over its energy supplies. The idea that Europe would adopt a US energy security directive, on the contrary, is absurd. We should focus on supporting democracy in Ukraine, and show Ukraine a concrete way to make itself more independent, and thus also bring the country closer to the European Union, rather than discussing the weaknesses of the completed and useless pipeline project.
President Biden It caused more domestic political outrage with the suspension of sanctions. In general, his current polls do not look good. flirting at the same time Donald Trump Open with the possibility of renewal of candidacy. What if again presidency The potential despot of it United States of America And you mean the world?
else: The Trump four years have undoubtedly been a strain on the transatlantic relationship. But I say with confidence: We did not allow ourselves to be provoked. We showed that we were able to manage this difficult relationship. It is true that we cannot count on this not to happen again. We have to adapt to that. But we do not recommend intervening in the internal political disputes in the United States. The answer can only be: Europe must become stronger, more united, and more resilient. This is ultimately in the interest of the United States as well.
For a person: Nils Annen, 48 years old, from Hamburg. The political scientist was the Federal President of Jusos from 2001 to 2004. The politician from the Social Democratic Party has held the position of Secretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas since 2018.
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