There is a natural affinity between the United States and Europe. As the origins of many of our religious and intellectual heritages, a unique bond exist that continues to bring us together despite our differences. As Europe became a focal point in liberty’s struggle during the twentieth century through two world wars and the cold war, Americans developed the unshakeable belief that America’s liberty is and continues to be indelibly intertwined with Europe’s liberty. With East Berlin, and Eastern Europe itself, under the death grip of Communism, President Kennedy in 1963 invoked American’s shared sense of destiny with Europe when he proclaimed, “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ (‘I am a Berliner’)” Today, the Western world’s common struggle against Islamic terrorism only reaffirms Americans’ belief that the futures of the United States and Europe are inseparably connected.
Because of the United State’s deep connection to Europe, the recent statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel instantly hit a nerve with many Americans. “The times in which we could rely on others completely—they are partly past,” Chancellor Merkel further stated, “I experienced this in recent days. So I can only say: we Europeans must truly take our destiny in our own hands.”
Likely meant as a less than subtle rebuke of the President, the statement certainly gives the impression that President Trump is undercutting America’s status as a stalwart ally of Europe.
Considering the relationship between Europe and the United States, I would anticipate that President Trump must have done something fundamentally inconsistent with the U.S./Europe relationship for a European leader to make such a remark. And yet, a review of the situation indicates that Chancellor Merkel’s statement was in part rooted in the President’s indication earlier this week that he would remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accords.
Stewardship of our natural resources and the planet itself is a matter of importance and consequence. At the same time, despite the now prevalent doom and gloom news narrative following the President’s formal withdrawal, reasonable minds can differ on the best course to pursue in achieving that goal while still addressing the economical needs of people today. And yet, Chancellor Merkel has decided the United States reconsidering a non-binding climate agreement signals a wavering of America’s commitment to Europe itself?
As President Trump and others have noted, Germany is just one of many European nations that regularly fails to live up to the defense spending contributions established by NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). If pulling out of a non-binding agreement on climate change constitutes wavering commitment, what does a failure to uphold obligations under NATO, an organization that for more than half a century has played an indispensable role in coordinating the collective safety of Europe and the United States, signal?
Nations will disagree from time to time. Not all European nations were supportive of the military actions taken in the wake of islamic terrorist attacks against the United States and Europe. Reasonable minds will also disagree on how to protect even the most fundamental of shared values. And yet, this does not indicate a change in each nation’s commitment to the fundamental values themselves. Furthermore, a disagreement over this agreement seems insignificant compared to the values and hard fought history the United States and Europe share.
In the end, Chancellor Merkel likely made her statement for political reasons. Our own President has made statements that are inconsistent with traditional American commitments, with his statement’s toward NATO a prime example. And as actual actions have demonstrated America’s continued commitment to NATO and its role, I hope that these statement by Chancellor Merkel are also proven mere rhetoric. And as actions speaks louder than words, I would hope any nation dedicated to Europe’s future would support its rhetoric by keeping the obligations it already has to Europe.
Our destinies and continued liberties are still intertwined in a special way that should never be underestimated. And so long as we continue our mutual commitment to our common Judeo-Christian values of individual liberty and self-determination, Americans can still with pride follow in the steps of President Kennedy and proclaim, “Ich bin ein Berliner!”