During the Munich Security Conference, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Foreign Minister took aim at US President Donald Trump by slamming his “America First” approach to foreign policy. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen also criticized Washington without naming the country, for reducing its spending on foreign development.
US President Donald Trump has often spoken about US military might and has equated it to the nation’s strength domestically and abroad. He has spoken highly of the military, despite having not served in the Vietnam War after receiving five draft deferments. In February 2018, the White House confirmed that he had requested a military parade – something that has not occurred in over 20 years.
The White House has also been criticized for not appointing vacancies in the State Department. Multiple positions for diplomats have not been filled. The country still does not have an Ambassador for South Korea despite the region being highly sensitive. The country has also significantly increased its military budget. The US Pentagon has cited Russia and China as prime concerns and has requested the US Congress to increase its military budget in 2018. It has requested a budget of $686 billion. This would be one of the largest budgets in the nation’s history if it gets approved. The Trump administration is hoping in particular to update its nuclear arsenal.
The Munich Security Conference is an annual conference on international security policy that has taken place in Munich, Bavaria since 1963. It is the world's largest gathering of its kind and it has become the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers.
During the conference Gabriel said, “Maybe this can explain why we Germans in particular are so perturbed when we look across the Atlantic — because we no longer recognize our America," Gabriel said. "Is it deeds, is it words, is it tweets we should look at to measure America?” He urged a return to greater joint cooperation, saying now is not the time for "just pursuing individual national interests.”
He spoke about how China and Russia tried to “undermine” the European Union. He chastised the US government noting, “It is one thing from possible rivals or competitors, but from our friends and partners we expect that they will respect the unity of the EU. No one should try to divide the EU, not Russia, not China, but also not the United States.”
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen hailed recent European efforts to bolster military cooperation and pledged increased German defence spending. Without mentioning Washington by name, she admonished the nation for cutting back on its spending on diplomatic missions. Washington, von der Leyen said, has a “precious obligation” that goes beyond military strength.
Our assessment is that European allies seem to be increasingly concerned over US President Trump’s approach to foreign policy. Without proper channels of diplomacy, institutions like the UN, NATO and the European Union become more vulnerable. Germany as one of the leaders in Europe has expressed its apprehensions regarding the US since the Trump presidency began.