Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel has been relatively reserved when it comes to directly taking on the Trump administration’s foreign policy in speeches.
But at the Munich Security Conference overnight, she talked openly and frankly about the current state of the world and the current security order that she believes is at risk.
She spoke about trade, security and the environment, and said that the world now needs to work together. She defended multilateral institutions over power rivalries that are boiling over right now.
The speech received a standing ovation, something that is uncommon at such a conference.
The Washington Post described it as a “point-by-point takedown of the [US] administration’s tendency to treats its allies as adversaries”.
Merkel said that the once global order led by the US had, “collapsed into many tiny parts” and said, “we cannot just smash it, we need to cooperate.”
And she said that the US had strengthened Russia and Iran, and noted her shock at the Trump Administration viewing BMWs made in South Carolina as a threat to national security. “That shocks us,” she said, to applause from the crowd, with the camera going to Ivanka Trump, listening on, who remained motionless. “We are proud of our cars and we are allowed to be that. Frankly, if you have a problem, if you have a headache, it is better to come and talk about it.”
Merkel criticised Trump’s move to pull troops out of Syria, and his administration’s suspension of the Intermediate Range Missile Treaty with Russia. “We sit there in the middle with the result,” she said, with such decisions directly affecting European security.
“Now that we see great pressure on the classic order we are used to, the question now is: do we fall apart into pieces of a puzzle and think everyone can solve the question best for himself alone?”
As Deutsche Welle reports, her ideas were not new and nothing that haven’t been put in writing previously, but her delivery — speaking freely and without notes — was issued with significant passion, energy and got straight to the point. DW notes that the audience was relieved to hear her speech, particularly when contrasting her words with the “wooden”, “America First” speech delivered by US Vice President, Mike Pence.
Indeed, the conference was described as being “Mike Pence Vs Angela Merkel”. His speech received near-silence, compared with Merkel’s.