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Freelance journalist currently based in Berlin, chronicling the effects of populism on elections in Europe. Former Washington-based political reporter for CBS News, Politico and National Journal.
Every February, the Munich Security conference, which brings together top foreign leaders and security experts in Munich's Bayerischer Hof hotel, serves as a bit of a status check for the transatlantic relationship. What are the biggest security and foreign policy issues facing the United States and its European counterparts — and just as importantly, how and to what extent do these longtime allies plan on tackling those issues together?
In the years since Donald Trump entered the White House, Munich has become a more complicated affair: as Trump's administration expresses skepticism about international organizations like NATO, and pulls out of major agreements like the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal, the previously ironclad bond between the U.S. and the EU has begun to fray. That was especially true at this year's conference, which took place last weekend.
The podcast guests, the European Council on Foreign Relations' Ulrike Franke and Jonathan Hackenbroich, discussed the dichotomy between back-to-back speeches by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Merkel, who's since received accolades for her uncharacteristically frank and impassioned rhetoric, defended multilateralism and spoke out against potential tariffs on the German auto industry. Pence, who two years ago in Munich gave a speech reassuring allies of the U.S.'s commitment to NATO, spoke more about America's strength than its ties in Europe. The podcast guests also discuss a speech by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and the extent to which that clashed with Pence's appearance at the conference.
All of this contributes to the idea that the transatlantic relationship has entered a new phase: Europeans are no longer merely skeptical of the Trump administration, but actively see a rift in the transatlantic relationship under his presidency. What that means for the coming year remains to be seen.