November 7, 2019 / 10:51 AM / 10 days ago

Europe at risk if Germany turns its back on U.S., NATO chief says

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin must not forget Washington’s crucial role in allowing Europe and Germany to reunify after the Cold War, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, after Germany’s foreign minister called unity “a gift from Europe”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Stoltenberg, who has already been credited with keeping a sceptical U.S. President Donald Trump onside at NATO, sought to remind Germans of the United States’ commitment to European security, which includes U.S. troops in Europe.

“The reunification of Germany and Europe would have been impossible without the United States’ security guarantee,” he said at an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Any attempt to distance Europe from North America will not only weaken the transatlantic Alliance, it also risks dividing Europe itself.”

Tensions between Berlin and Washington have grown under Trump, who has pulled out of a series of international treaties that have undermined European Union foreign policy.

At a NATO summit last July, the U.S. president accused Germany of being a “captive” of Russia because its reliance on Moscow for energy. His envoy to Berlin in August called Germany’s low defence spending “offensive.”

In an article published in 26 European countries last weekend, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pointedly omitted giving the United States credit for victory over the Soviet Union and the security that allowed the EU to develop.

Echoing his earlier comments about what he sees as U.S. unreliability under Trump, Maas called on the European Union to come together as a power to stand up for the continent.

But Stoltenberg cautioned that while he supported efforts to integrate EU defences, the bloc, which Britain is seeking to leave, was no replacement for the United States, the world’s biggest military power.

“The European Union cannot defend Europe,” he said.

He also called on Europe and the United States to work together to respond to China’s growing military might, noting the sharp growth in China’s navy and in its inventory of missiles that would break Cold War-era arms control treaties.

Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Timothy Heritage

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