May 30, 2017 by


Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Munich on Sunday. “The times in which we could rely fully on others, they are somewhat over,” she said. Credit Christian Bruna/European Pressphoto Agency

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, has concluded, after three days of trans-Atlantic meetings, that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and the Continent have automatically depended on in the past.

Clearly disappointed with Mr. Trump’s positions on NATO, Russia, climate change and trade, Ms. Merkel said in Munich on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as steadfast as they once were and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” Ms. Merkel added, speaking on the campaign trail after a contentious NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 meeting in Italy. “This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Ms. Merkel’s strong comments were a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations. With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.

“This was a summit in which the goals and priorities of the United States and the president really were felt deeply,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s conversations with other leaders. Mr. Trump “has changed the way many people around the world are thinking about these issues.”

White House officials expressed little concern about the personal interactions between the president and other heads of state. The administration official said Mr. Trump had built “an extraordinary rapport with the other leaders.”

Ms. Merkel seemed particularly upset with Mr. Trump’s refusal to endorse language supporting free trade and backing the Paris climate accord in the Group of 7 declaration after talks in Taormina, Sicily. There have been reports that Mr. Trump intends to abandon the 195-nation climate deal agreed upon in 2015, arguing that it hurts the American economy.

The climate accord was the most vivid sign of division between the United States and its allies. But Mr. Trump, in Brussels, also repeated comments that Germany was “very bad” because of its trade surplus and the fact that some German car companies manufacture in Mexico for importing into the United States, even though many of them produce cars in American factories with American workers.


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On Saturday, Ms. Merkel was unusually direct in discussing what she called unsatisfying talks on climate change, which is an important issue for many German voters and a hallmark topic for the chancellor, who first made her mark in the 1990s shepherding an international accord on the environment.

Ms. Merkel’s disappointment on the issue was not entirely shared by Mr. Macron, who said Mr. Trump had at least listened to the arguments of the other Group of 7 leaders.

Ms. Merkel, however, sounded a somewhat bleaker note. “The whole discussion about climate was very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory,” she said. “There’s a situation where it’s six, if you count the European Union, seven, against one.”

“This is not just any old agreement, but it is a central agreement for shaping globalization,” she said. “There are no signs of whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris accords or not.”

Mr. Macron told the French news media that his now-famous handshake tussle with Mr. Trump was a deliberate effort to show that he could not be pushed around by the American president. He told the Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche that it was “a moment of truth” — designed to show that he is no pushover, and a message for the European Union leadership, as well.

“My handshake with him — it wasn’t innocent,” Mr. Macron said. “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones, but also not over-publicize things, either.”

The budding Merkel-Macron relationship is important, and Ms. Merkel has moved quickly to embrace him, conscious that he must still try to win a legislative majority in elections next month to be an effective partner. The European Union has traditionally been at its strongest when its two biggest continental powers work closely in tandem.

Accordingly, Ms. Merkel and her top aides held a bilateral meeting on Friday night in Sicily with Mr. Macron and his top officials, German officials said. Most strikingly, the spouses of the two leaders also attended. It is rare for Ms. Merkel’s husband, Joachim Sauer, to accompany her on trips abroad — something she said recently that he decides. Brigitte Macron is new to the role of France’s first lady, but Mr. Macron has credited her with giving him valuable political advice.

In general, Mr. Macron — who will meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday at Versailles, outside Paris — has stressed friendship with Germany, appointing German speakers to critical positions, including prime minister, chief foreign policy adviser and defense minister. The newly elected president also kept the tradition of paying his first official visit to Berlin, doing so on his first full day in office.

As for Mr. Trump, he says the trip was a resounding success. On Sunday, after being restrained on Twitter while abroad, he returned to form, unleashing a barrage of posts. Among them: “Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”

Mr. Daalder disagreed. “The president’s failure to endorse Article 5 in a speech at NATO headquarters, his continued lambasting of Germany and other allies on trade, his apparent decision to walk away from the Paris climate agreement — all suggest that the United States is less interested in leading globally than has been the case for the last 70 years,” he said.

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