Together, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel's comments could end a century's collaboration on peace in Europeby Robert Fry / May 31, 2017 / Leave a comment
Angela Merkel and Donald Trump are clearly not a match made in heaven. After an awkward first encounter when the Chancellor visited the newly installed President at the White House, relations reached a new low at the recent NATO and G7 summits. Acting entirely in character, a combative Trump demanded more defence spending from NATO’s European members and refused to recommit to the Paris climate accords. And acting entirely out of character, the
Acting entirely in character, a combative Trump demanded more defence spending from NATO’s European members and refused to recommit to the Paris climate accords. And acting entirely out of character, the normally-cautious Merkel has responded that Europe can no longer rely on America. The continent, she says, must become responsible for its own destiny. For a leader used to making policy—especially foreign policy—in cautious incremental
For a leader used to making policy—especially foreign policy—in cautious incremental steps, this is a big leap, and one which contains the possibility of a complete re-drawing of Western security architecture.
Meanwhile, in an irony apparently lost on both leaders, America has recently marked the centenary of its commitment to Europe. There were a number of proximate causes for American entry into the First World War, but what began in 1917 still endures in 2017. For the moment, the USA remains the ultimate guarantor of European security.
At the tactical level (where battles are won), the US contribution in the First World War was too little, too late. Even though nearly five million US citizens were mobilized, American arms had only a marginal effect on the battlefields of 1917/18. However, at the strategic level (where wars are won), US impact was decisive.
Before America’s entry, the German armies in the West occupied the most advantageous position available in war—simultaneously on the strategic offensive and the tactical defensive.
Strategically, they occupied large tracts of French and Belgian territory that contained much of those countries’ natural resources and industrial capacity. Tactically, they had constructed formidable defences against which the allied armies dashed themselves in successive failed offensives. It was a position from which they expected to win, or at least negotiate a peace on the very best terms.
All that changed with America’s arrival. US manpower and resources meant the advantage moved ineluctably in the…