A sense of relief four years later pulsed through her congratulatory message to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “Joe Biden brings with him decades of experience in domestic and foreign policy. He knows Germany and Europe well,” Merkel said in her first televised address since the US election.
Her greeting envisages America returning as an assertive global leader to tackle the “major challenges of our time” like climate change, the pandemic, terrorism, trade and the economy, “side by side” with Europe. But Merkel also understands that Trump’s presidency, attacks on NATO and reasonable demands for Europe to pay more for its own defense reflect political dynamics within the US that mean the old halcyon days of American protection aren’t coming back — even if Russia remains a vigorous adversary.
“We Germans and Europeans understand that we must take on more responsibilities in this partnership in the 21st century. America remains our most important ally, but it rightfully expects more effort from us to guarantee our own security and to defend our values around the world,” Merkel said.
The end of Trump’s “America First” nationalism buys the West a little time to accelerate that thinking. But the urgent questions he posed are not going away.