Germany seeks to woo Americans amid rocky Trump relationship

By Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS   

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Berlin has struggled to come to terms with Trump's willingness to cast aside international agreements signed by his predecessors.

BERLIN—Smarting from President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks and perceived disregard for a long-time U.S. ally, Germany is launching a multimillion-dollar publicity campaign to highlight the country’s close ties with the United States.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas planned to kick-start the charm offensive—a series of events headlined “Wunderbar Together”—during a visit Wednesday to Washington, where he will also meet with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to discuss Syria, the nuclear deal with Iran and relations with Russia.

“We are experiencing a serious crisis of multilateralism at a time when we need it most,” Maas told The Associated Press in written comments before departing for the U.S. “Where one used to be able to rely blindly on many things—contracts, agreements and on each other—now there are more and more question marks. That’s a political reality we have to deal with.”

Berlin has struggled to come to terms with Trump’s willingness to cast aside international agreements signed by his predecessors, such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord. German officials from Chancellor Angela Merkel down have also expressed frustration at the U.S. president’s broadsides against Berlin over trade, immigration and defence spending.


Germany has pushed back in some areas, saying it’s time to “reposition” the trans-Atlantic relationship. Officials such as Maas have taken a more assertive tone toward Washington, going so far as to openly break with the U.S. over the question of how to deal with Iran.

During last week’s U.N. General Assembly, German diplomats didn’t hide their amusement when Trump repeated his warning that Germany would become “totally dependent on Russian energy” unless it cancels a planned gas pipeline to Russia.

Still, Berlin has stressed that it feels indebted to the United States for its post-World War II generosity and protection, and considers Washington its most important ally outside Europe.

“It’s no secret that we have other political opinions in some areas than the American president,” Maas told the AP.

“But it’s also clear: America is bigger than the White House,” he added. “Of course we won’t be able to solve every political dispute that way and we also won’t convince everybody of our position on import tariffs or protecting the climate. But if our project can help us pick up the thread of new conversations or resume those that we’ve neglected, then much will have been achieved.”

The new German outreach campaign will see more than 1,000 events across the country over the coming year, including debates, musical performances, art exhibitions, soccer competitions and—of course—beer festivals.

The aim is to highlight economic, cultural and scientific ties between Germany and the United States, with a conscious effort to woo not just coastal elites but Middle America as well.

“We particularly want to reach people outside of Washington,” said Maas.

Both Germany and the United States belong to “the core of the West,” he said. “And the West has fundamental values. Democracy, freedom, human rights are the values of the United States, too, no matter what the president is called.”


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