Germany was among many European countries that breathed a deep sigh of relief when Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the US presidential elections in November 2020.
Viewing Europe as an enemy, Trump went out of his way to damage US relations with its key European allies, and he often targeted Germany as Chancellor Angela Merkel faced his wrath.
He openly called Merkel “stupid” and lashed out at Berlin for not only its trade surplus but also for refusing to boost its military spending and its deepening energy cooperation with Russia.
So it came as no surprise that the Merkel government welcomed President Biden’s willingness and readiness to rebuild American-German relations.
In fact, Biden’s election win gave rise to high hopes not only in Berlin but throughout European capitals.
There was also no lack of grand gestures, such as Biden’s participation in the virtual EU summit last month and his cordial words about common values and interests. New US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a seasoned diplomat, called Germany “our most important ally in Europe” and vowed to consult with Berlin on all contentious issues.
New US Government
The Biden administration showed early on its steadfast readiness to patch up its relations with the Merkel government by rejoining the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization, both of which Trump had quit.
Also, Biden reaffirmed his country’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5 on collective defense — suggesting that an attack on one alliance member shall be considered an attack on all members — agreed to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia and expressed readiness to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program.
All in all, hopes were high that all these moves by Biden would open a new chapter in close relations with Germany, but differences loom large in the political sphere.
Nord Stream 2 Tops The List Of Differences
A major dispute remains the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, which is now about 95% completed.
Under intense pressure from Congress, the Biden administration has reiterated its opposition to the pipeline.
Blinken issued a statement last month reaffirming the government’s intent to comply with Congressional legislation calling for sanctions and warning that “any entity involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline risks US sanctions and should immediately abandon work on the pipeline.”
On March 23, Blinken expressed strong opposition to the pipeline in his talks with his German counterpart Heiko Maas.
Washington’s hardline policies towards Beijing and Russia pose another headache for Berlin that may prove difficult for repairing American-German relations.
As the Biden administration seeks to pursue a get-tough policy to contain China and Russia more effectively, it will look to its European allies for support.
Meanwhile, Berlin is also upset over the fact that the US failed to consult the German side on its plans to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan by May.
There is now a deep sense of frustration in the German capital when it comes to its political expectations towards the Biden administration.
German officials slam US ‘Neo-Colonial’ Attitude
The Hamburg-based German weekly Der Spiegel cited unnamed German government officials who accused the Biden government of “neo-colonial behavior,” an attribute that was previously reserved for the Trump administration’s controversial Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell.
An unidentified top German diplomat summed up the overall mood on the state of US-German ties as the following: “The honeymoon is over before it has started.”
This is also how the German government’s transatlantic coordinator Peter Beyer sees the situation.
“We expected more from the restart of the transatlantic relationship,” he lamented.
The dispute over vaccines amid the coronavirus pandemic is almost symbolic of the messed-up US-German relationship.
While the German vaccination disaster is primarily homemade, the US is sitting on 30 million AstraZeneca jabs that the country will likely never need.
The British-Swedish manufacturer applied for quite some time to export parts of it to Europe, but Biden refused.
To many Germans, the Biden administration is merely a “softer version” of Trump’s government as only its rhetoric appears to be less hostile.
Meanwhile, the Merkel government is now increasingly aware of the fact that rebuilding US-German ties will be much tougher than previously anticipated.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The EurAsian Times.