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Whither the US-German Relationship?

With German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her way out, and America still vulnerable to Trumpism, Germans can neither rely on their traditional protector nor pursue outright strategic autonomy. In a world beset with risk and uncertainty, the long, complicated history of the bilateral relationship may be about to enter a new phase.

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s farewell visit to the White House this month offers an ideal opportunity to reflect on the state of US-German relations. But it is not a sentimental opportunity. The long, complicated history of the bilateral relationship may be about to enter a new phase.

From the aftermath of World War II until Germany’s reunification in 1990, the United States shepherded the country’s reconstruction and economic resurgence. This epoch could be summed up under the heading “Guardian and Ward,” which was far more fortuitous than the preceding chapter, “Enmity and War.”

In that chapter, Germany’s ruthless pursuit of world power in two savage world wars eventually ended in its complete and utter defeat. The Allies victory in WWII left Germany divided into four occupation zones. Large swaths of its eastern territory were lost, resulting in 12 million refugees and expellees. And, everywhere, there was the moral abyss of the Nazis’ monstrous legacy.

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