Trump “wants regime change in Germany,” alleges country’s former Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel
President Donald Trump’s week-long Europe visit not only provoked a ‘day of rage’ from leftist demonstrators in London, it also triggered mainstream German media and liberal politicians, with the former German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel even accusing the U.S. President of striving for a ‘regime change’ in Germany.
Gabriel, who served as Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister in the previous Merkel cabinet, told German weekly Der Spiegel that “America led by Trump can’t be trusted. [Trump] gives guarantees to the North Korean dictator and at the same time wants regime change in Germany.”
Gabriel, however, failed to explain how he came to this outlandish assumption.
On Wednesday, Trump kicked off a week-long tour of Europe by criticizing Germany’s multi-billion gas pipeline deal with Russia. “They pay billions of dollars to Russia and we have to defend them against Russia,” he said.
The ensuing response of the mainstream German media was almost hysteric. “Trump begins his EU trip with a verbal attack on Germany,” reported the news network N-TV. “The mightiest military alliance is in crisis: Trump’s unpredictability puts NATO partners in an ordeal–and confront them with the question: how much dispute can the alliance bear?”
Many German media outlets cheered the Merkel government’s defiant stance on the issue of NATO defense spending.
The country’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas rejected “Trump’s demands” that NATO allies should be paying 2 percent of their gross domestic product toward defense, reported German public broadcaster ZDF. Maas instead “demanded more respect for international order and criticized US President Donald Trump,” the broadcaster added.
“Germany rebuffs Trump” over NATO defense spending, reported the German tabloid Bild, “[Merkel’s] spokesman Steffen Seibert made it clear on Friday that government will not accept new [financial] obligations during the current NATO summit.” The tabloid, however, admitted that there were “divergent views” on the issues within the German ruling coalition.
“Trump takes aim at Germany and NATO,” said the German weekly Der Spiegel in its editorial. “Trump turned this week’s NATO summit into a showdown with Germany and its chancellor.” The magazine argued that “the U.S. president seems to view Germany with a mixture of jealousy, admiration and anger.”
Der Speigel hailed the German Chancellor’s standing in the U.S. media landscape, arguing that “the liberal American press that Trump so despises has championed Merkel as its heroine.”
The magazine, however, failed to mention Merkel’s tanking poll numbers at home. According to the last month’s nationwide survey published by Der Spiegel, the German Chancellor was now “more unpopular than ever.”
Most of the German news outlets ignored Trump’s remarks on Europe’s deteriorating migrant situation, focusing instead on his disagreements with UK Prime Minister Theresa May over her handling of the Brexit negotiations.
At a joint press conference with May on Friday, Trump particularly mentioned Germany as he warned European leaders to “better watch themselves” as mass immigration permanently changes the continent for the worse.
“I think that has very much hurt Germany, and I think its very much hurt other parts of Europe. And I know its politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I’ll say it — and Ill say it loud,” Trump told reporters.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung backed Trump on Germany’s meager defense spending, saying that “criticism of German defense policy is in essence correct.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung argued that it was Germany that found itself isolated at the NATO summit and not Trump. The U.S. President’s comments were met with ‘silent approval,’ the newspaper noted.
In Germany, a dangerous sluggishness has engulfed the security policy. This extremely peculiar view of looking at threats, deterrence and [defense] procurement and the significance of military as a constructive component of the external defense; is shared [only] by a minority in the [NATO] alliance. This is the reason why the critical remarks made by the President could have devastating impact. They trigger a silent approval, and reinforce the perception that Germany has known since the euro [monitory] crisis: the Federal Republic as an egoist economic superpower that seeks commercial advantages at the cost of others. [Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 12, 2018; Translation by the author]
Support for Trump’s stand on NATO defense spending also came from elsewhere in the German-language press. Leading Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung ran a front-page editorial Saturday with the headline “Where Trump is Right.” The editorial said that “Europeans fear that the West is breaking up and blame the US president for it. They themselves display lack of solidarity and hypocrisy when it comes to the most important Western alliance, the NATO.”
While former Vice-Chancellor Gabriel did not elaborate on his view that Trump was going to ‘change the regime’ in Germany, the US President may have unintentionally created yet another schism in Merkel’s fragile coalition.
“German government feuds over military spending increases after NATO summit,” reported the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want more money for Germany’s military. But their Social Democratic coalition partners have pushed back, warning that Germany should not cave into demands made by Donald Trump,” the broadcaster said.
Last month, Merkel survived a government collapse over her unpopular open-door migrant policy. Trump’s NATO spending demands are causing yet another stir in that china shop.
Having watched the uninterrupted Obama apology tour for eight long years, Merkel and the ruling German establishment continue to have a tough time coming to terms with Trump.
[Cover image via YouTube]
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