Revealed: What Germans really think about American relations

What do Germans and Americans think about relations between their countries? According to a new survey, both have very different opinions.

Revealed: What Germans really think about American relations
US President Donald Trump. Photo: DPA

Germans and Americans have strongly differing views on the quality of relations between their two countries, a new survey has revealed.

The poll found that three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans see relations with Germany as 'good', while only 34 percent of Germans surveyed had the same opinion.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center and the German firm Körber-Stiftung, which jointly conducted the poll in September, found that 17 percent of Americans described relations as 'bad or very bad' – compared to 64 percent of Germans.

Compared to last year, however, the number of those who assess relations positively has improved on both sides: in the 2018 survey, this figure was five percentage points lower for Americans and 10 percentage points lower for Germans.

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However, in 2017 – the year Donald Trump took office as US president – significantly more Germans gave the relationship between the two countries a more positive rating than today.

Graph: Statista.

At that time, 42 percent of respondents gave relations the thumbs up. In another Pew survey in 2018, only 10 percent of Germans said they had confidence in Trump.

In the current survey, 42 percent of Germans said the USA was the Bundesrepublik's most important or second most important foreign policy partner. Only France came up with a higher figure (60 percent).

In contrast, only 13 percent of Americans consider Germany to be the most important or second most important partner. Germany ranks fifth after Great Britain (36 percent), China (23 percent), Canada (20 percent) and Israel (15 percent).

A whopping 69 percent of Americans want to see more cooperation with Germany, according to the survey. For Germans, the figure is only 50 percent. More Germans were in favour of expanding cooperation with France (77 percent), Japan (69 percent), Russia (66 percent), China (60 percent) or Great Britain (51 percent).Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Photo: DPA

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What do people think about US bases in Germany?

There are major differences in what citizens think about the importance of US military bases in Germany. A massive 85 percent of Americans surveyed consider these bases to be important or very important for US national security.

Significantly fewer Germans – 52 percent – think these spots are 'important or very important' for the national security of the Federal Republic.

Trump regularly criticizes Germany's defence spending, which he says is too low, and accuses Berlin of lagging behind the NATO goals it has set itself. However, only 35 percent of the Americans questioned shared the opinion that the European allies should increase their defence spending.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of Germans say the Bundesrepublik should invest more in defence. A total of 35,000 US soldiers are stationed in Germany. There are also 17,000 American and 12,000 German civilians employed by US troops.

For the survey, more than 1,000 people in the USA were interviewed by telephone between September 17th and 22nd. In Germany, the survey was conducted from September 9th to 28th among 1,000 participants.

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Erdogan links Swedish Nato approval to Turkish EU membership

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday he would back Sweden's Nato candidacy if the European Union resumes long-stalled membership talks with Ankara.

Erdogan links Swedish Nato approval to Turkish EU membership

“First, open the way to Turkey’s membership of the European Union, and then we will open it for Sweden, just as we had opened it for Finland,” Erdogan told a televised media appearance, before departing for the NATO summit in Lithuania.

Erdogan said “this is what I told” US President Joe Biden when the two leaders spoke by phone on Sunday.

Turkey first applied to be a member of the European Economic Community — a predecessor to the EU — in 1987. It became an EU candidate country in 1999 and formally launched membership negotiations with the bloc in 2005.

The talks stalled in 2016 over European concerns about Turkish human rights violations.

“I would like to underline one reality. Turkey has been waiting at the EU’s front door for 50 years,” Erdogan said. “Almost all the NATO members are EU members. I now am addressing these countries, which are making Turkey wait for more than 50 years, and I will address them again in Vilnius.”

Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, is due to meet Erdogan at 5pm on Monday in a last ditch attempt to win approval for the country’s Nato bid ahead of Nato’s summit in Vilnius on July 11th and 12th. 

Turkey has previously explained its refusal to back Swedish membership as motivated by the country’s harbouring of people connected to the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist group, and the Gülen movement, who Erdogan blames for an attempted coup in 2016. 

More recently, he has criticised Sweden’s willingness to allow pro-Kurdish groups to protest in Swedish cities and allow anti-Islamic protesters to burn copies of the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

In a sign of the likely reaction of counties which are members both of Nato and the EU, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the two issues should not be connected. 

“Sweden meets all the requirements for Nato membership,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin. “The other question is one that is not connected with it and that is why I do not think it should be seen as a connected issue.”

Malena Britz, Associate Professor in Political Science at the Swedish Defence University, told public broadcaster SVT that Erdogan’s new gambit will have caught Sweden’s negotiators, the EU, and even Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg off guard. 

“I think both the member states and Stoltenberg had expected this to be about Nato and not about what the EU is getting up to,” she said. “That’s not something Nato even has any control over. If Erdogan sticks to the idea that Turkey isn’t going to let Sweden into Nato until Turkey’s EU membership talks start again, then Sweden and Nato will need to think about another solution.” 

Aras Lindh, a Turkey expert at the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs, agreed that the move had taken Nato by surprise. 

“This came suddenly. I find it hard to believe that anything like this will become reality, although there could possibly be some sort of joint statement from the EU countries. I don’t think that any of the EU countries which are also Nato members were prepared for this issue.”