Trump Administration Must Cooperate with Europe, Germany Needs to Creatively Boost Defense

May 09, 2017
Michael Kimmage Heidi Tworek
Frédéric Bozo
Stefan Fröhlich
Wade Jacoby
Harold James
Hans Kundnani
Yascha Mounk
Ted Reinert
Mary Elise Sarotte
Stephen Szabo
4 min read
Photo credit: Dmitriy Linchevskiy /

Photo credit: Dmitriy Linchevskiy /

You can find a summary of the report in German here.

WASHINGTON – Despite suspicion and misunderstanding on both sides of the Atlantic, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration must value the importance of the transatlantic relationship to the United States and work with  European partners on  key challenges like counterterrorism, Russia, China, and trade, says a collective of leading European and American scholars. In a new report from the Transatlantic Academy entitled Suspicious Minds: U.S.-German Relations in the Trump Era, they also argue that Germany should creatively increase defense spending and capabilities as part of its own national interest.

“Germany has clearly emerged as the most significant country within the European Union. The United States under the Obama administration turned to Berlin to lead on a number of challenges from Ukraine to refugee crises, despite some disagreements in the economic realm,” said Transatlantic Academy Executive Director Stephen F. Szabo. “This report unpacks what fundamental questions the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States has opened up about the nature of this key partnership and more broadly the future of the West.”

Trump’s victory challenges key assumptions about the United States on which Germany has built its foreign policy since 1949. In the report, the Transatlantic Academy fellows argue that “Germany must not only seek to work with Trump’s America to the extent that it can, but it must also buy insurance against the day that perceived German and American interests and policies diverge more than they now do... The more unilateralist America often promised in the campaign could certainly re-emerge.” In this context, Germany should work to strengthen Europe, particularly via close cooperation with France, which will require more flexible and balanced economic policies within the EU.

The report argues that the emerging fault lines between Germany and the United States predate the Trump administration including U.S. complaints about “free riding,” German concern about U.S. surveillance practices, and economic divides and corporate and digital clashes. However, unexpected crises such as Ukraine and an unusually high level of mutual trust between Chancellor Angela Merkel and former President Barack Obama led to close cooperation between the governments.

Going forward and sooner rather than later, Germany should meet their NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense by hiring and paying private-sector salaries to top-notch cybersecurity personnel given the threat of Russian hybrid warfare, investing in defense research which can yield long-term economic gains, and spending more on health and pandemic response capabilities. Meanwhile, the Trump administration should understand that the consequences of a destabilized Europe would be hugely costly for the United States. Officials at all levels of the U.S. government – including in Congress, the Executive Branch, and state and local government – as well as the private sector should do all they can to promote and preserve the benefits of the transatlantic relationship.

Suspicious Minds: U.S.-German Relations in the Trump Era is the ninth, and final, annual report from the Transatlantic Academy, a Washington-based partnership of The German Marshall Fund of the United States, the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, which brings in subject-matter experts as fellows to focus on a different theme of importance to the transatlantic relationship every year.

The report is authored by nine fellows: Senior Fellows Frédéric Bozo of the Sorbonne Nouvelle (University of Paris III), Stefan Fröhlich of the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Wade Jacoby of Brigham Young University, Harold James of Princeton University, and Mary Elise Sarotte of the University of Southern California, Fellows Yascha Mounk of Harvard University and Heidi Tworek of the University of British Columbia, Bosch Public Policy Fellows Michael Kimmage of Catholic University of America and Hans Kundnani of The German Marshall Fund of the United States – along with Szabo and the Transatlantic Academy’s Program Officer Ted Reinert.

2016-2017 Transatlantic Academy Paper Series and Policy Briefs

Berlin's New Pragmatism in an Era of Radical Uncertainty – Stefan Fröhlich

Whither Germany? Why France Matters – Frédéric Bozo

The New Parameters of German Foreign Policy – Hans Kundnani

Political Communications in the "Fake News" Era: Six Lessons for Europe – Heidi Tworek

Wake Up, Berlin! To Save the Transatlantic Alliance, German Foreign Policy Needs to Change Radically – Yascha Mounk

Populism, History, and Identity in German Politics and Foreign Policy – Anna Sauerbrey

Can Germany Make Globalization Work? – Harold James

Multilateralism in One Country: The Isolation of Merkel’s Germany – Gideon Rachman

Getting Beyond Minsk: Toward a Resolution of the Conflict in Ukraine – Michael Kimmage

Countering the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Germany: German-American Policy Options – Christopher Chivvis and Guido Steinberg

Surplus Germany – Wade Jacoby

The Renewal of the Russian Challenge in European Security: History as a Guide to Policy – Mary Elise Sarotte