BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned Monday against seeking “simple answers” to complex global issues, a day after suggesting that Europe’s relationship with the U.S. had shifted significantly following NATO and G-7 meetings with President Donald Trump that produced disappointing results.
The comments at an election rally Sunday in Bavaria, where Merkel stressed that “we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands,” were widely seen as acknowledgement from Europe’s most powerful leader of the changing dynamic of trans-Atlantic ties.
Her foreign minister, a political rival, upped the rhetoric Monday by declaring that with Trump’s policies, “the West has become smaller.”
Merkel’s remarks came after a Group of Seven summit at which the Europeans couldn’t reach an agreement with Trump on climate change.
“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” she said. “And so all I can say is that we Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.”
Merkel also emphasized the continued need for friendly relations with the U.S. and others. Her spokesman Steffen Seibert, said Monday the chancellor is “a convinced trans-Atlanticist.”
U.S.-German relations “are a strong pillar of our foreign and security policy, and Germany will continue working to strengthen these relations,” Seibert said. “Precisely because they are so important, it’s right to name differences honestly.”
Where Europe’s relationship with the U.S. during the Cold War and in its immediate aftermath had a strong emotional component, Merkel’s comments suggest she now sees them as more “pragmatic and transactional,” said Sylke Tempel, an expert with the German Council on Foreign Relations.
“She feels there is a turning point — trans-Atlantic relations won’t be the relations we’ve seen over the last decades,” Tempel said. “Trump accelerates it, but it was to be expected.”
She also noted that Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor in September, and does not want to be seen as being too close to an American president who is widely disliked in Europe.
“You don’t want to be sitting too comfortably in Trump’s boat, or in Trump’s boat at all, because Trump’s not liked here,” she said.
During a speech Monday in Berlin, Merkel did not specifically mention Trump but quoted a 1963 speech by former President John F. Kennedy in Frankfurt, where he told the audience “those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”