The German Election and Donald Trump

How German–U.S. Relations Are Shaping the Race

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, March 2017. Jonathan Ernst / REUTERS

Since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, Germans have lost trust in the United States. According to an opinion poll conducted by Infratest dimap in February 2017, only 22 percent of German respondents considered the United States a reliable partner, down from 59 percent in November 2016. According to a June 2017 survey by Pew Research, moreover, 87 percent of German respondents have no confidence that Trump will do the right thing in world affairs. That has hurt the United States’ overall image; Pew Research data shows that 62 percent of German respondents have unfavorable views of the country. In 2015, that figure was at 45 percent.

Given such strong feelings, it makes sense that Trump has been a frequent topic in Germany’s ongoing federal election campaign. Whether it is his response to the violence in Charlottesville, his announcement of new sanctions on Russia, his pressure on the German government to increase its defense budget, or the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Germany, there is no shortage of fodder for German politicians looking to pick up votes.

Only 22 percent of German respondents considered the United States a reliable partner.

Most leading candidates, for example, have expressed concern over the right-wing violence in Charlottesville. Chancellor Angela Merkel (from the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU) argued that clear, forceful action must be taken against such racist, far-right violence. Her main opponent, Martin Schulz (from the Social Democratic Party, or SPD), took an even harder line, calling the incident “Nazi terror” and finding it shocking that Trump “remained silent about this kind of terror, or makes comments that would allow those who committed these acts of violence there to feel encouraged.”

The new sanctions law drafted by Congress and signed into law by Trump on August 2 is another subject that received plenty of airtime. Although primarily directed at Russian companies, the law could lead to penalties on German companies that do business with Russian counterparts, particularly in the energy field. In response to the first draft of

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