Today, a new chapter in the long history of the transatlantic partnership with the United States begins: As 46th President of the United States of America, Joseph Biden takes over official functions from Donald Trump. Biden is considered a bearer of hope. It is expected that under Biden’s leadership the United States will again place a stronger focus on cooperation with their proven partners – including Germany.
The upcoming NATO defense ministerial meeting on 17 February will show how important it is to the United States to revive what has recently been a strained transatlantic relationship. The designated U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin is anticipated to attend the meeting. The retired Army general would be the first African American to assume office as U.S. Secretary of Defense. During his term of active duty, his positions included, among others, that of the commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq.
In preparation of the meeting, Federal Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Reviving the partnership with the United States will be on top of the agenda. The situation in Afghanistan is to be discussed as well. “I look forward to working with the new U.S. administration”, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. “We face major challenges. Global power shifts and technological revolutions create new insecurities.” NATO needs to reposition itself and decide how it wants to deal with China, the Minister said. The United States is Germany’s and Europe’s most important military ally. That is why all parties have to contribute to strengthening transatlantic security.
Over the coming months, an intensive exchange with the new U.S. administration will be pursued, the Minister promised. Security cooperation in the NATO framework had suffered under President Trump’s political approach. For example, the former U.S. President had announced the withdrawal of a large number of the approximately 35,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany. This would be a severe loss for Germany, both in economic terms and with regards to security. After all, the United States continues to be the major contributor to NATO in terms of troops and funds. President Biden has instead presented the prospect of reviewing this decision.
Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer has highlighted, time and again, that unimpaired relations and intense cooperation with the United States are matters very close to her heart. “Westbindung and Germany’s coming of age in terms of security policy are closely linked to each other”, Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a speech at the German-American Steuben-Schurz Society in October of last year. Germany depends on America’s strategic protection and must contribute much more actively to the international order, the Minister said at the time. Our bond with the United States and NATO is crucial for Germany’s and Europe’s destiny.
Kramp-Karrenbauer sent similar messages in a speech at Helmut-Schmidt University in Hamburg last November. “Without America’s nuclear and conventional capabilities, Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves. Those are plain facts”, she said back then. The strategic focus of the United States is moving increasingly towards the Indo-Pacific. That is why it is greatly in Germany’s interest for the United States to remain invested in Europe’s defense. “The best way to achieve this is to do more for our own security”, the Minister said. “Only if we take our own security seriously, will the United States do the same.” The first opportunity to demonstrate that will arise at the NATO defense ministerial meeting in mid-February.