As the Western world is buffeted by a rising tide of populism, the traditional transatlantic relationship between the United States and Germany is being called into question. Disparate interests and philosophies have sown discord among once stable allies, and disagreement between national governments has placed transatlantic cooperation in an increasingly fragile state. As the last few years have shown, international relations can change as quickly as the temperament of national leaders. In response to this threat, ties between the United States and Germany must be cultivated and strengthened on a grassroots level. A strong base of support among the public will help relations withstand changes in national administrations, and solidify transatlantic bonds.
Making widespread and lasting change is slow and expensive. Simple, cost effective steps may be a practical start to efforts to engage the German and American public. One action that could be taken immediately at minimal cost in time and money is to create a website to consolidate and centralize efforts among NGOs and think tanks focused on promoting transatlantic relations. Before the public can become involved it must be aware of the issues at hand. There are numerous websites for individual organizations, and news media overwhelms readers with information. However, a single website in German and English would be a quick and convenient avenue for members of the German and American public unfamiliar with transatlantic relations to learn about the subject with a single google search.
This website would explain the shared history of the United States and Germany, and describe current challenges and interactions between the two countries. Articles describing individual NGOs and think tanks, along with news about their activities, would help interested readers follow progress at home and overseas, and could help convince them to participate. The activities of organizations and governments would be classified into five sections; economy, immigration, climate, defense, and education, similar to the aspects of cooperation outlined by the first Atlantic Expedition.
This website could help serve as a common platform through which organizations could coordinate and mutually support efforts to educate and promote German-American relations. The current political climate has resulted in more people on both sides of the Atlantic becoming more actively involved in politics. In Germany, the approaching election for chancellor has energized voters. The election of Donald Trump in the United States and the resulting political volatility has increased attention and donations to political and non-profit organizations, and led to participation in demonstrations such as the women’s march and the march for science.
Creating a website would help facilitate public outreach and take advantage of this increasing attention to political and international affairs. Utilizing social media such as Facebook would help attract participants, and offering an online forum to discuss issues and debate ideas would be a productive method of participation. Listing scholarship and educational opportunities would help promote a more personal level of cooperation and interaction. The website could further involve the public by giving readers weekly issues to research and focus on, similar to what some political organizations have done in the United States. Giving readers information on how they can participate and local groups they can join would help promote active participation and make people feel transatlantic relations are relevant. The website would also provide methods for readers in Germany and the United States to contact their respective representatives and advocate for mutually beneficial policies. Although issues relevant to transatlantic relations are politically sensitive in nature, it is critical that the website be as non-partisan as possible. The goal should be to promote positive and productive relations between the United States and Germany, without advocating one political philosophy at the expense of alienating another.
Producing a website is certainly not the only action which can and must be taken to stabilize German-American relations and to convince people of its continuing relevance, and there are significant weaknesses to this approach. Although a website is available to every member of the public, this site is unlikely to attract attention beyond those people who are already interested or curious about the subject. In addition, it may be difficult to determine which organizations should be included on the website, as many NGOs are involved in multiple countries and work in a diverse array of fields. However, consolidating information into one source is a cost and time efficient method to advocate for the importance of transatlantic relations, and for advertising opportunities for the public to participate. This can be a good start to attracting people who care about transatlantic issues, and turning an interest into lasting participation. This is a first step, but an important step.