Task Force Speakers
Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference
Derek Chollet, Counselor and Senior Advisor for Security and Defense Policy, GMF, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Daniela Schwarzer, Senior Director for Research and Director of the Europe Program
“The United States and Germany are not living on different planets.”
The transatlantic relationship continues to be vital, but to quote Wolfgang Ischinger, “we have a problem” with German-American relations. There is a distinct erosion of trust among the German public for their old ally, and the old story of the two countries’ friendship will not be enough to sustain the relationship in the future. This is why GMF decided to bring together a varied group of experts and stakeholders who are not professional transatlanticists to discuss the state of German-American relations today, and whether or how it is a partnership that will continue to be relevant. The insights from the task force are brought together in a report. The release of the report was marked with an event in Berlin on May 29, hosted by Haus der Commerzbank am Pariser Platz, bringing together three task force members Wolfgang Ischinger, Daniela Schwarzer, and Derek Chollet, and moderated by Senior Transatlantic Fellow Sudha David-Wilp.
The feeling of anxiety over the state of relations was clear both in the remarks and the discussion following. Though there have been many transatlantic disagreements over the years, from missile deployment to Ronald Reagan’s approach to the Soviet Union and most prominently over the Iraq war, the startling aspect of today’s discord, as Wolfgang Ischinger pointed out, is that it’s not over a specific foreign policy disagreement. Instead there is a general sense of distrust among Germans today despite strong transatlantic foreign policy coordination. At the same time, despite the drama and the seeming rift in relations, Germany and the U.S. largely share a strategic perspective. Or, as Derek Chollet put it, despite Robert Kagan’s widely cited assertions of a decade ago: “The United States and Germany are not living on different planets.”
Nonetheless, the relationship needs work and “will not prosper if we think we can put it on autopilot” (Ischinger). Thus, the speakers highlighted the recommendations of the report which are, more than anything, a call to action, to further invest in German-American relations, and sponsor vigorous and varied debates on the value of the relationship that engage different stakeholders and move beyond the two capitals.