A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation

January 31, 2017

The participants of the Foreign & Domestic Policy group came together for their second virtual meeting on January 31, 2017. The aim of the meeting was to identify 5-10 policy recommendations that address or solve the issues of concern that have been discussed so far.

The points raised during the discussion focused on a couple of things:

  1. To whom should policy recommendations be addressed now that there is a new administration in the White House? What are the communication channels now that the environment has changed? Is there any traction remaining between the two sides of the Atlantic?
  2. What are the issues where recommendations can be useful?

There is a strong concern that the way foreign policy is being conducted at the White House has fundamentally changed. However, it will be important to keep the communication channels open. One channel to pursue is through Capitol Hill. It is important to make the case that every nation thinks of itself first (“America first”) and that it does not preclude engaging with others. The relevance of German-U.S. relations is high in Germany and Europe; it is somewhat ambivalent in the United States, but Congress members remain interested.

In Berlin, there is confusion regarding every field of politics now: from cybersecurity and terrorism to Russia’s manipulations. At the same time, it is not clear who has President Trump’s ear at the moment.  The political leadership in Germany is waiting for the various cabinet members to be confirmed. A better approach to waiting is to seek dialogue with Congress, not the White House. Engage with the various committees, not just the Foreign Service Committee, but make it broader and more global, e.g., Agriculture Committee. It will also be important for Bundestag members to come to the U.S. and to visit with Members of Congress to enhance outreach between the two sides.

Since Chancellor Merkel is currently seen as the leader of the opposition to President Trump, is there enough infrastructure for a German-U.S. relationship left? Lines of communication need to be kept open. Other sectors can help, including think tanks and the private sector. It appears essential to go beyond the Bundestag/Congress networks in the current environment. Nonetheless, Bundestag-Congress interaction should be enhanced. Bringing Members of Congress to Europe (Brussels, NATO, Berlin) will keep channels of communication open. Promoting the EU concept is an important aspect of the communication strategy.

Among the many issues that should be addressed are:

  1. Cybersecurity, counterterrorism, intelligence
  2. Brexit and the EU
  3. Russia (manipulations, hacking)
  4. Middle East policy and crisis management
  5. Labor market/economic issues
  6. Challenge to liberal democracy
  7. Climate change
  8. China/South China Sea/Trade

Who are the stakeholders in the discussion? It is not only a matter of the elite. Communication does not only happen at the governmental level, cities and civil society actors are important stakeholders as well, and have an important voice and role to play given current anti-establishment sentiments.

Meeting report written by Susanne Dieper.