Discussion event: The German-American Security Partnership after the U.S. Election

cisgbonn Veranstaltungen 2016

Report, 21. November 2016

The panel discussion moderated by Daniela Schwarzer (Otto-Wolff-Director, Think Tank, German Council on Foreign Relations) on the topic of “The German-American Security Partnership after the U.S. Election: Confronting New Challenges” was the final session of a day-long Security Forum held at the Center for International Security and Governance in Bonn. After two keynote speeches by Jeffrey Hovenier (Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs, U.S. Embassy Berlin) and Dr. Thomas Bagger (Head of Policy Planning at the German Federal Foreign Office), both speakers joined a panel discussion with General Klaus Naumann (German Army General [ret.], Former Chairman of the NATO military Committee) and Ambassador Steven Pifer (Director of the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at Brookings; Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine), focusing on the aftermaths of the US election and their implications for the future of the German-American Security Partnership.


Prof. James D. Bindenagel

In his opening speech, Professor James D. Bindenagel (Henry-Kissinger-Professor; Head of the Center for International Security and Governance at Bonn University; Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany), briefly outlined the implications of the US election. Trump questioning the US commitment to NATO, his rejection of international trade agreements and his push for isolationism created uncertainty as well as anxiety among European politicians. Nevertheless he emphasized that “Germany and the US are still tied together by values” and that the transatlantic relationship will continue to be of great importance for both countries.

After Professor Bindenagel’s opening remarks, the Rector of the University of Bonn Prof. Dr. Michael Hoch also welcomed all guests, and participants of the day-long Security Forum at the CISG, to the University of Bonn. He highlighted Bonn’s unique, international position as the city of the United Nations, as well as the importance of a transatlantic academic exchange and discussion. Professor Hoch further emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of international security studies, stating that this is corresponding to the academic goals of the University of Bonn.


Dr. Thomas Bagger

Dr. Thomas Bagger further elaborated on the point of uncertainty, emphasizing that we do not yet know who president-elect Donald Trump will appoint as his staff members and what policy priorities will be set. However, judging from Trump’s comments during his election campaign, Dr. Bagger pointed out that foreign policy will not be the first issue on his agenda. Instead, Trump will likely pursue a more narrow scope, focusing primarily on domestic issues. Regarding international policies, Dr. Bagger highlighted Donald Trump’s Russia policy as one of the big issues for the new administration. His apprehension was that Trump’s policy change towards Russia might create a transatlantic split over sanctions against Russia, if the president-elect decides to lift the sanctions. As for Germany’s response to this change in administration, Dr. Bagger described Germany as “the last one standing”. However, he also gave a word of caution, stating that we need to “be sober about the substance of that expectation” and know the limits of our capabilities.


Jeffrey Hovenier

Jeffrey Hovenier, opened his keynote by saying that this election “brought an end to one chapter of the US-German partnership”. The Trump administration will pursue new policy approaches and this new focus “will be close to home”. Stating that Germany will remain an important partner for the United States, Mr. Hovenier, shared two main issues that in his opinion will be of great importance for the German-American partnership: burden sharing, especially in regard to military spending, and close collaboration in fighting cyber security and international terrorism. He urged Germany to be “strong and stable” and assured the audience that “the longstanding ties between our two countries should help us get through this uncertain time”.


Big audience at the panel discussion

After the keynote speeches, Daniela Schwarzer opened the panel discussion with both speakers as well as Ambassador Steven Pifer and General Karl Naumann. The discussion continued to focus on the many uncertainties surrounding the Trump administration and how Germany can prepare for the upcoming policy changes. General Naumann pointed out that German politicians as well as the media were caught off-guard by the outcome of the American election and that a greater level of preparedness has to be of the utmost importance in the months to come. He further emphasized that in order to prepare for the possible policy shift of the Trump administration, the European Union has to “talk with one voice”. Ambassador Steven Pifer further elaborated on this, expressing that “the EU has to show the US that it can help Trump and his staff members to get things done on the international agenda”. Similar to Hovenier, he saw an increase in European military spending as one of the key issues in the upcoming months. On a more positive end note, Pifer said that the German government “should not assume the worst” and highlighted the importance of reaching out to the new administration and exchanging views in order to keep up the German-American partnership. Dr. Bagger added to his previous statements and focused on the future developments of the European Union, especially the outcomes of the upcoming elections in France and Germany in 2017, which will be of great importance for the future of the transatlantic security partnership. Mr. Hovenier focused on what Germany has to offer the US, especially in regard to data collection and fighting terrorism and expected further concessions from the EU and Germany in particular.


This event was hosted by:

Center for International Security and Governance

American Institute for Contemporary German Studies

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik

Amerika Haus Nordrhein-Westfalen

U.S. Consulate General Düsseldorf

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn