The Cable

Top German Diplomat Pushes Back Against Trump’s Attacks

In an implicit rebuttal to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, Germany’s ambassador to NATO offered a full-throated defense of his country’s contributions to European security and pushed back at accusations that Berlin was relying on Washington for protection rather than taking responsibility for defending itself.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16:   Business mogul Donald Trump points as he gives a speech as he announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City.  Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House.  (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Business mogul Donald Trump points as he gives a speech as he announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

In an implicit rebuttal to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, Germany’s ambassador to NATO offered a full-throated defense of his country’s contributions to European security and pushed back at accusations that Berlin was relying on Washington for protection rather than taking responsibility for defending itself.

Noting Germany’s deployment of troops to Afghanistan and Kosovo, its lead diplomatic role on the Ukraine crisis, and its contribution of 5,000 troops to a new NATO force charged with protecting the alliance’s eastern and southern flanks, Ambassador Hans Dieter Lucas said criticisms about Germany’s purported lack of engagement don’t reflect reality.

“Germany is heavily engaged in all NATO missions,” he said during an interview at the German embassy in Washington. “Engaged like probably not many others.”

Trump has specifically and repeatedly lashed out against Germany for, in his view, not doing more to challenge Russian aggression in Ukraine and allowing migrants from the Middle East and North Africa to resettle within its borders.

“When Russia is going into Ukraine … I don’t hear from the other countries in NATO. I don’t hear from Germany. I only hear from the United States,” Trump told ABC’s This Week in March.

In an interview on Meet the Press last August, Trump reiterated his view that Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, should take a bigger responsibility in European security affairs. “Where’s Germany?” he said. “Why isn’t Germany leading this charge? Why is the United States?”

During a news conference in September, Trump pledged to “renegotiate some our military costs,” and specifically called out Germany. “We protect everybody and we don’t get reimbursement,” he said.

Lucas was careful not to mention Trump by name, but the ambassador rejected criticism of his country’s role in the Ukraine crisis. He noted that Berlin had worked with Moscow, Kiev, and Paris to cobble together the Minsk ceasefire agreement that has significantly reduced the bloodshed there.

“That’s the only game in town,” he said. “What the chancellor and the foreign minister are doing is really investing a lot of capital into this process because at the end of the day, there will only be a political solution in Ukraine.”

Lucas arrived in Washington this week to discuss preparations for the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw on July 8-9. The summit comes as U.S. allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltics seek increasingly ironclad assurances from the United States that it will defend them against Russian military threats. But it also comes as U.S. frustration over shouldering the costs of protecting Europe have increased on Capitol Hill and in the White House — and become a frequent talking point for Trump.

In his campaign, the real estate tycoon has also taken direct shots at Angela Merkel after the German chancellor was announced as Time magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year for her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa into her country.

“What she’s done in Germany is insane. It’s insane letting in that many people,” Trump told CBS at the time. He referred to her as the “person who is ruining Germany.”

German officials haven’t always taken the hit lying down. In March, Merkel’s deputy, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, said Trump poses “a threat to peace and social cohesion” and associated him with far-right politicians in Europe.

“Whether Donald Trump, Marine le Pen or Geert Wilders – all these right-wing populists are not only a threat to peace and social cohesion, but also to economic development,” Gabriel said.

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