At the Nato summit, US President Donald Trump kicked things off with an outraged rant about Germany.
It is true that there are objectionable things about living in Germany – no ocean for miles, a vicious and inefficient bureaucracy (never a good combination), and salads made out of sausage meat with a creamy dressing. But none of those are the unpleasantries the US President describes.
Still, Trump likes to talk dirty about Germany – a lot. At the July Nato conference, ostensibly a meeting of allies, “der orangen pussy grabber”, as he is occasionally referred to here, shocked participants by kicking things off with an outraged rant about Deutschland. But maybe we shouldn’t be shocked. Europe’s largest economy has been one of Trump’s favourite targets for a while.
When he arrived in Berlin this June, his new ambassador to Germany got into it, too. Richard Grenell gave an interview saying he’d be happy to “empower” any conservative political elements who might like to overthrow the Government. Not exactly diplomatic.
All this harassment has left many Germans asking: why does Trump hate us so much? We thought we were friends. Remember how good we were together during the Cold War, Donald?
One website speculated that it could be as simple as a dislike of strong, smart women. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stood up to him in her own disconcerting, low-key way. She was also good pals with Barack Obama back in the day, another person Trump isn’t fond of.
Or it could be that he’s jealous: surveys of German voters consistently show that only about 10% of them have confidence in Trump. At the same time, more than half of US voters like Merkel.
Or maybe it’s because Trump’s family originally emigrated from Germany. Or because he really does think Germany is playing the US for a sucker, getting rich off international trade and then expecting Americans to protect it while not paying enough towards its own defence. Actually, on this point, many Germans agree.
On the other hand, what a country spends money on can come down to other factors. Germany spends much more on foreign aid than the US as a percentage of GDP. Because of the country’s history, that’s just the non-militarised, peace-building way Germans like to roll.
It could all be part of Trump’s cunning plan to break up an increasingly shaky European Union. “The single biggest point of leverage the EU has in global trade talks is its ability to control access to the European single market,” writes Ian Kearns, a former think-tank director, in his recently released book, Collapse: Europe after the European Union. “If that market no longer exists, even large European countries like Germany will find themselves, not at the dinner table of trade talks, but effectively on the menu. China and the US will run the show.”
Der Spiegel magazine suggested, in a cover story on the subject, “Perhaps it’s the mixture of economic strength, military restraint and moral hubris in Germany that makes Berlin the subject of Trump’s loathing,” Or perhaps it’s because Americans think we’re all socialists and they don’t like that. Or, hang on, perhaps it’s just because Donald Trump is a dick who can’t spell. I’m going with that one.
Cathrin Schaer is editor-in-chief of Iraqi news website Niqash.org, based in Berlin.
This article was first published in the August 4, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.