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With Trump In Office, What Is The Future Of U.S.-German Relations?


Let's ask how the leader of Germany might work with President-elect Donald Trump. Angela Merkel has pursued very different policies than Trump encourages. She's encouraged free trade, fights climate change, has welcomed more than a million refugees into her country. We're going to talk with Peter Wittig, Germany's ambassador to the United States, in our studios once again.

Thanks for coming by.

PETER WITTIG: It's a pleasure.

INSKEEP: Merkel put out a statement on Trump's victory. And she didn't just say congratulations, she said a little more. If you don't mind, I'm going to read it here. (Reading) Germany and America, Merkel says, are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views.

And then she says, I offer the next president of the United States, quote, "close cooperation on the basis of those values." Why did she feel the need to say all of that?

WITTIG: Well, first of all, for Germany a close transatlantic partnership is absolutely crucial. So Chancellor Merkel reached out to the president-elect very early and offered a partnership, a personal partnership and a partnership between the two countries on the basis of the values that we share.

And mind you, Germany owes a lot of those democratic values to the U.S. The U.S. helped us to rebuild our country after the Second World War. So that is the basis that bound our two countries together over the years, those values. And she said, we will work with you together, you know, irrespectively what happened in the campaign, what was said in the campaign and...

INSKEEP: On the basis of those values.

WITTIG: On the basis of those values...

INSKEEP: Was she implying that she's not sure that Donald Trump will respect the law or the dignity of man?

WITTIG: Well, I think that goes beyond personalities. It's a shared basis of values between the two countries. And...

INSKEEP: But she's saying that is the basis on which we're going to cooperate, meaning not in other bases.

WITTIG: It's an offer of cooperation on one - on our shared traditions that, you know, share the people of the two countries and the personalities of the two countries. There's no doubt that this will be a very strong partnership. We will do our best so that it is - succeeds. And we will be very constructive, very pragmatic. And we will not judge this administration by the campaign rhetoric, but by its deeds in the future.

INSKEEP: What do the two leaders agree on?

WITTIG: They, I hope, agree on the importance of NATO as a bedrock of Western security. They agree, I suppose, on a partnership that benefits the security of the U.S. and Europe. And that there are many things that we can do together in order to enhance our prosperity and also stability in Europe. Because if...

INSKEEP: Now, Trump...

WITTIG: ...Europe is unstable, it is a security issue for the U.S. as well.

INSKEEP: Trump, as you know, has spoken supportively of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past, has also criticized some NATO nations for not paying their fair share. Although he's also said, yeah, I support NATO, but. I guess that's the rhetoric you're hoping to get past. What worries you?

WITTIG: You know, we have nothing against a new chapter in the dialogue with the Russian leadership. Chancellor Merkel has been the one who has been talking to Putin over the last years more than anybody else. That's a good thing. But we will be mindful that in that dialogue - this new dialogue with Russia, that the Eastern European and Ukrainian security concerns are taken into consideration.

One should not create an image where two superpowers are deciding the fate of Eastern Europe, of the Ukraine, without those countries being present at the table, sort of dividing up the spheres of influence. That impression should not emerge. So it's important to speak to Russia, to speak to Putin, but in a mindset of enhancing the security of Eastern Europe.

INSKEEP: Ambassador Peter Wittig from Germany. Thanks very much for coming by once again.

WITTIG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.