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Politics & Government

German Magazine Calls For International Coalition To Counter Trump

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The German magazine Der Spiegel has a lot to say about Donald Trump. There's this week's cover. It has a faceless Trump decapitating the Statue of Liberty and holding her bloody head. Then there's the editorial by executive editor Klaus Brinkbaumer. It compares Trump to Nero, the ruthless Roman emperor and calls on Germany to lead a global coalition against the American president.

Klaus Brinkbaumer joins us now from Hamburg, Germany. Welcome to the show.

KLAUS BRINKBAUMER, BYLINE: Hello, Kelly.

MCEVERS: I want to start with this cover illustration. The cover has been criticized as, you know, an exaggeration, a publicity grab, possibly one that even damages the media's credibility by taking such a powerful stance. What's your response to all that?

BRINKBAUMER: Well, honestly, I don't really understand any of that. It's a caricature.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

BRINKBAUMER: If you look at the face, there's no eyes. There's no nose. It's a yelling man - obviously, Trump. (Laughter) I'm not going to deny that.

MCEVERS: Right.

BRINKBAUMER: He's not killing a person. He has beheaded the Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol, a symbol of freedom and democracy. So if anybody accuses Der Spiegel or me personally of showing Trump as a terrorist, that is my answer. I mean he's beheaded the Statue of Liberty and not a human being.

MCEVERS: In your editorial, you say that Germany needs to build an international coalition to counter Trump to defend globalism, to protect institutions like the EU and the United Nations. What specific actions would you like to see Germany take?

BRINKBAUMER: I think it's two big topics Germany faces. One is that the United States are pulling back from the international order, from the world order. That is happening, and Donald Trump is certainly increasing that. He doesn't want to interfere in international crisises (ph). He has said that. But somebody has to step in. If we don't want it to be China or Russia, it has to be the European Union, which is in a bad state after Brexit.

So who is forming the European Union of the future? The countries that are the strongest, like France and Germany, have to step up and step in. That's one thing. And then the other is, if Donald Trump is seriously attacking German businesses and German policies and the European Union and international institutions, then I think these institutions or countries or businesses have to defend themselves. And of course I'm not talking about military action or anything like that but just defending our way to live, defending democracies.

MCEVERS: What would Germany stand to lose if, you know, some of these international structures did become weaker?

BRINKBAUMER: Well, we are very close to a lot of places where crises have already hit. I mean Ukraine is very close. Syria and Libya are not far away from Europe. Germany has been protected by NATO, by the United States. It's been 70 years of peace and 70 years of freedom and democracy in Germany.

Am I really saying all this is on the line? Well, not now and not before the French elections. But if Marine Le Pen wins it and really destroys the European Union, which she has promised to do, then everything could be on the line.

So are these serious times? Yes, definitely, they are. This is not a game. This is not about, well, a little more left or a little more right. This is about the future of Europe. And actually, it's about the stability of the world order.

MCEVERS: You've talked a lot about - in the editorial and now - what you'd like to see. Have German politicians in particular, you know, responded to specific things from President Trump so far - policy statements?

BRINKBAUMER: Yeah, they've been careful. The foreign minister who now becomes president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier - he criticized Trump once. Angela Merkel has been careful, and she should be. I mean they haven't really met yet. They've talked on the phone once.

In a diplomatic way, it's smart. It's smart to be careful. I mean the German chancellor shouldn't constantly be criticizing the American president even though I believe she is constantly shaking her head.

MCEVERS: Well, Klaus Brinkbaumer, executive editor of Der Spiegel magazine, thank you so much.

BRINKBAUMER: You're more than welcome, Kelly. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.