To understand the current state of transatlantic relations one has to glance not only at the latest political debates, which have been blasting through the media regarding many negative topics – mainly the new President-elect Donald Trump. This relationship between USA and Germany revolves around far more than just politics. Both countries are firmly connected by their history and culture. Hence, these two countries are on very similar journeys, which creates opportunities for both countries to help and benefit from each other.
On an international scale, the US and Germany are commonly understood as leaders and protectors of democratic values and human rights. Together they form the “Western world” and are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This bond developed after the 2nd world war, when the US supported Germany after it was completely demolished. Meanwhile it has regained its old strength and stands on its own feet – even helping other countries in peril as well. Both countries have been helping and assisting each other directly on a daily basis.
However, most people do not recognize all the beneficial side effects of this common and similar path. Problems and challenges that one country faces today, the other has to face tomorrow. One country thereby has the opportunity to learn from the other’s past failures and successes to then make better decisions when they are confronted with the same issue.
A political example is the latest presidential election. The American people have just elected Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States. A result that has caused much outrage amongst a large part of the country. Especially the American “mainstream” media (CNN, NBC, CBS, Fox News, etc.) was shocked that Clinton lost to a political outsider who was famous for his countless racist, fascist and populist remarks. German “mainstream” media (ARD, ZDF, etc.) could not believe this outcome either, when during the night of the election Trump was winning slowly but surely more and more electoral votes. What politics and media in general did not grasp until that night, was that they had created a “bubble” around themselves making them believe they were in control of the outcome of the election. They all sided with Clinton, so her victory was inevitable. Yet, they miscalculated their power because in the end it was not them in the voting booths, but the American people. Whilst many were laughing arrogantly about Trump inside their bubble, working-class people outside of it were upset and fed up with the political establishment. They therefore turned to a man that they thought was the counterpart to this social elite.
Now, the German political establishment has the chance to learn and reflect from these mistakes. They still have the power to change their course and thereby stop or at least inhibit the growth of the nationalist right-wing AfD party until the upcoming elections for the German parliament (Bundestag) in September 2017.
On a different note, to portray an area where the US can learn from Germany, we have to take a look at the sport that is deeply rooted in the German culture: Soccer.
More and more Americans are rushing to soccer stadiums and American interest in the sport is growing. But when comparing the men’s national teams of both countries it is clear that the US still has much to learn from the World Cup winner of 2014.
Then again, over the last decade a former German national head coach has had enormous influence on American soccer, making their national team more and more competitive on the international stage: Jürgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann witnessed the German reforms regarding the DFB in 2004 and used that experience to develop and reform the American soccer organizations. However, it is still long road to the first World Cup title. The multitude of divided youth programs need to unify to create a healthy and attractive environment for young talented players. Perhaps the answer to forming this conglomerate lies in understanding the roots of the very successful DFB model in Germany.
All in all, the transatlantic relationship is closer than ever before. Tensions regarding certain topics such as politics – and especially the presidential election – are just one page of an even bigger book. They should not distract us from the positives of this partnership. Observing the other and learning from their failures and successes is the most valuable benefit. But overcoming similar issues and protecting the same values is the real day-to-day challenge that US and Germany can only face together as a unit.