Ascending and Descending Powers

BERLIN/WASHINGTON | | usa

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) - While Sigmar Gabriel was making his first official visit as Germany's Foreign Minister to Washington last week, the dispute over Washington's likely ambassador to the European Union was escalating. The candidate for that post in Brussels, Ted Malloch, does not rule out the collapse of the euro in the 18 months to come. He also conceives of a possible dismantling - or even collapse - of the European Union and has announced that Washington will negotiate more with individual countries, than with Brussels. This could lead to a further accentuation of the existing rifts in the EU. Thus, Berlin is trying hard to prevent Malloch's nomination. The leaders of several European Parliamentary groups are demanding that his accreditation be blocked - until recently, an unimaginable affront. At the same time, Berlin seeks to position itself as the corrective counterpart to Trump's Washington in the escalating transatlantic power struggle. Last week in Washington, Foreign Minister Gabriel staged an unprecedented appearance as headmaster on the subject of democracy and human rights. Some members of the German establishment are expecting the EU's ascent parallel to the United States' descent on the world stage.

Favorable towards Germany

The nascent transatlantic power struggle is entering a new round with the dispute over the economist Ted Malloch's likely accreditation as US ambassador to the European Union. Malloch is very critical of the EU. He recently reiterated unusually harsh criticisms of Germany and the EU, previously expressed by US President Donald Trump and his top trade advisor Peter Navarro. In an interview, Trump had stated, "you look at the European Union, and it is Germany; basically, a vehicle for Germany."[1] According to Navarro, the euro has been "grossly undervalued," thus aiding Germany to "exploit" other countries with export offensives.[2] Melloch declared, "it seems to me that Trump believes that the European Union has in recent decades been tilted strongly and most favorably towards Germany." Malloch also believes that the euro "is not only in demise" and "could in fact collapse in the coming year - year and a half."[3] He also thinks that betting against the euro would have good prospects.

Trend-Setting Changes

Malloch also has announced that Washington would make a sharp change of course in relationship to the EU. "There are signs of trend-setting changes in the relationship between the United States and Europe," he said. "From the US' point of view, bilateral cooperation with individual EU countries is often preferable." This is advantageous for the United States.[4] Ted Malloch explained: “I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped to bring down the Soviet Union, so maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.” The EU's collapse cannot be ruled out. "The member states will democratically decide whether the EU would rather be an economic or a political entity or whether it will collapse."[5] The first of such decisions can be expected in the coming months with the elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Unprecedented electoral successes have been predicted for parties on the extreme right in those three countries.[6]

"Outrageous Malevolence"

Berlin is doing everything to prevent Malloch's appointment as US ambassador to the EU. Until now, mainly group leaders in the European Parliament have publicly taken a stand in opposition to his nomination. "We do not need a troublemaker in Brussels, dreaming of the euro's demise, seeking to tame and overthrow the EU, as with the Soviet Union earlier," declared the SPD European parliamentarian Jo Leinen.[7] Gianni Pitella, Chair of the European Parliament's Social-Democratic Group, also expressed his opposition to Malloch's nomination. Manfred Weber (CSU) and Guy Verhofstadt, Chairs of the Conservative and Liberal Parliamentary Groups, respectively, also call for Malloch to be withdrawn. His "statements reveal outrageous malevolence regarding the values that define this European Union," they wrote in a letter sent to EU Council President Donald Tusk. "if pronounced by an official representative of the United States, they would have the potential to undermine seriously the transatlantic relationship that has, for the past 70 years, essentially contributed to peace, stability and prosperity on our continent."[8] If necessary, Brussels must refuse Malloch's accreditation. The threat of such a measure has never been raised against Washington.

Headmaster Germany

During his visit, last week, to the United States in the midst of the heated dispute over Malloch, Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel continued the enactment of Berlin's posture as the corrective counterpart to Trump's Washington. In Washington, Gabriel repeatedly sought to symbolically pose as the foreign policy representative of an EU, with its newfound sense of its own power. He reportedly told his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, "We are the new kids on the block." In Washington, he counterposed "a confident and 'strong Europe'" to the new US president's "America first."[9] Gabriel's appearance at the US Library of Congress, where he read famous passages on freedom and human rights from a German translation of the US Declaration of Independence, drew widespread attention - "an unorthodox lesson" aimed at the US government, according to the German press.[10] Until now, a German politician's appearance as headmaster on the subjects of democracy and human rights in Washington's halls of power had been unthinkable.

Defender of the Liberal West

Since Trump's election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has also been active along these lines. A commentator recently summarized that, Chancellor Merkel "leaves nothing heard or read from the new administration unanswered" - from the entry ban for Muslims, the US blocking the entry of refugees, all the way to issues of free trade.[11] She does not even limit herself to letting "her differences" with the US administration be presented to the public by her spokesperson. "She does and says it personally." The commentator applauds the chancellor's efforts to assume leadership of the international opposition to Trump at eyelevel with the US president, describing him as "the alleged[!] most powerful man in the world" - an unprecedented verbal demotion of the United States. However, Merkel can count on support from the liberal US establishment. Already soon after Trump's election, the New York Times announced that Chancellor Angela Merkel "may be the liberal West's last defender."[12] This assessment has been repeated several times since. Recently, the US periodical, Foreign Policy, highly emphasized Merkel's self-assertion, as a champion for "western values." She stood up to the new US president "from zero hour of the Trump era."[13] The concerted effort with the liberal US opposition offers Berlin new possibilities for expanding influence.

The EU's New Role

There are those within the German establishment, who believe it is possible for the EU to make the desired ascendance in global politics, accompanied by a weakening of the United States. "We are going to assume a completely new role," predicted a CDU politician in mid-January at an event held by the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The foundation reported that a canvas of the participants showed that only a narrow majority believed that the USA can maintain its predominating position in global policy.[14] Nearly half of the participants were reckoning with an imminent decline in the United States' influence over global policy.

For more information on this subject, see: The Moment of the Europeans, Leader and Followers, In the Name of Europe, and Transatlantic Trade War.

[1] See The Moment of the Europeans.
[2] See Transatlantic Trade War.
[3] Kamal Ahmed: Euro 'could fail', says man tipped as US ambassador to EU. www.bbc.com 25.01.2017.
[4] Trumps Mann für Brüssel hält Euro für fehlerhaftes Experiment. www.faz.net 03.02.2017.
[5] Markus Becker: Diplomatie mit der Brechstange. www.spiegel.de 01.02.2017.
[6] See Das Jahr der Nationalisten.
[7] Markus Becker: Diplomatie mit der Brechstange. www.spiegel.de 01.02.2017.
[8] Benedikt Peters: Der Mann, der die EU in die Nähe der Sowjetunion rückt. www.sueddeutsche.de 03.02.2017.
[9], [10] Oliver Georgi: In schwieriger Mission. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 04.02.2017.
[11] Günter Bannas: Spitze Bemerkungen und andere Nettigkeiten. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02.02.2017.
[12] Alison Smale, Steven Erlanger: As Obama Exits World Stage, Angela Merkel May Be the Liberal West's Last Defender. www.nytimes.com 12.11.2016. See Make Europe Great Again.
[13] Paul Hockenos: Angela Merkel Has a Playbook for Bullies Like Trump. foreignpolicy.com 31.01.2017.
[14] Donald J. Trump - unberechenbar, unkonventionell, unorthodox. www.kas.de 18.01.2017.