Can Germany become a world power again?

Analysis: Global Influence Waning: Will the USA Step Out as a World Power?

Changes in the global power structure often take place slowly, but sometimes with a big bang, due to a global event that shakes structures and accelerates developments. One such event could be the global corona crisis.

Since US President Donald Trump took office at the beginning of 2017, structures that have long been considered stable and resilient seem to be losing their viability in fast motion. "The image of the USA in Europe has already deteriorated before Trump," warns the deputy director of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) in Berlin, Sudha David-Wilp, before narrowing the analysis to the president.


The pandemic is changing the view of geostrategic power relations

But Trump's volatility, his aggressive rhetoric and his deep aversion to multilateral alliances such as NATO or the European Union are now on the table. In this already tense situation, the pandemic acts like a gigantic accelerator - and changes the view of geostrategic power relations. This is confirmed by a large-scale current study by the independent US foundation German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the French Institute Montaigne and the German Bertelsmann Foundation.

6,000 people in the USA, France and Germany were interviewed for the analysis. The highlight now is that the survey was first repeated in January 2020 - before the outbreak of the pandemic - and then in May, when the coronavirus was already keeping the world in suspense. The numbers are remarkable, for the US they are alarming. The leadership in Beijing, however, should be happy. While in Germany and France in January 12 and 13 percent respectively of those surveyed named China the most influential country, in May it was already 28 and 20 percent.


The French and Germans agree that the USA is still the most powerful state on earth. But: This view was shared between the North Sea and the Alps in January by 62 percent, in May it was only 54 percent. At the same time, it seems to be paying off that, according to the respondents, Germany has dealt with the Corona crisis relatively successfully in an international comparison. In France, where the pandemic was particularly severe, the proportion of those who approved the country as the most influential power in Europe also rose significantly from 64 to 72 percent.

The corona numbers in the US are a disaster

As far as the USA is concerned, the reasons are obvious: Most recently, a record number of more than 55,000 new corona infections were reported within 24 hours. Almost 2.7 million people were infected with the corona virus and around 130,000 died. The fact that President Donald Trump seriously called on his supporters to test less so that the numbers go down was met with astonishment worldwide. "Trump has three big problems: This is the disastrous course of the Corona crisis with catastrophic values, the resulting economic crisis and the social unrest after the death of the African American George Floyd in police violence."


What happens in November Will the election save the opponents of the controversial incumbent? As of today, there are “some things that Biden can win in the presidential election against Trump,” believes David-Wilp. “The president just makes too many unnecessary mistakes. However, there will only be elections in four months, which in politics can be an eternity. ”If asked the other way round, is everything all right again if Trump can no longer welcome the New Year in the White House? David-Wilp believes that "it will be easier for Germany and Europe" if Joe Biden wins the elections. However, the Democrat will then "have his hands full dealing with the consequences of the Trump presidency such as Corona, unemployment and the social division".

Germany is attested noticeably more influence

In the eyes of the respondents, Germany continued to potentially gain influence in the period from January to May. The question is how this gain can be implemented politically. David-Wilp has clear expectations of Berlin. “Germany is increasingly taking on a leading role, whether you want it or not. It will be about accepting the great challenge posed by the aggressive policies of China, but also Russia. "And if possible on the side of the United States, because one should" not forget that the USA and Germany are still fundamentally the share the same values ​​”.

Not least because of this conviction, the scientist also criticizes individual aspects of German foreign policy: “For me, the Nord Stream energy project is an example of Germany making decisions from an economic point of view without sufficiently considering the strategic and security consequences. This is not only rightly criticized in the USA, but also perceived as lacking in solidarity in Europe. "


David-Wilp is optimistic about the possibilities for a renaissance of the once so close transatlantic ties. This is also because Germany's standing in the USA is far better than the current upset would suggest. David-Wilp observed that Trump's attacks against Germany and Chancellor Merkel at election events would not be particularly well received. “If you look closely, you can see that people often cover up this situation with a shy smile.

Germany continues to have a positive connotation in the USA. Does that also apply if what many fear happens - if Trump stays at the helm of the United States for another term? Sudha David-Wilp also has a quantum of consolation in store for this case: "Should Trump make it again, then it is reassuring that Republicans and Democrats agree that NATO must be preserved and strengthened."

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