Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is seen more often on CNN than in Berlin these days but on Thursday evening, he took the stage to deliver the keynote address for the launch of Handelsblatt Global Edition. His theme was the U.S.-Germany relationship, and how it is more important than ever to revive it.
He has a vested interest in the topic. Since he resigned as German defense minister in 2011, after accusations that he had had plagiarized large sections of his doctorate thesis, Mr. zu Guttenberg has built up a career as a transatlantic specialist in New York.
Explaining Germany to America is a job that needs doing. The two countries are drifting apart, and old prejudices are re-emerging.
“We, from a German perspective, tend to see the Americans as hotheads,” he said, adding: “Americans see us as slow, as reactive, as unable to unite, submerged in our own infighting and unwilling to take risks. And looking at the never ending euro crisis or how divided we are when facing Russia justifies at least part of their critique.”
Whistle blower Edward Snowden’s revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency had regularly spied on Internet users around the world, and had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone hit the already faltering U.S. German relationship hard. The German resentment of Google’s dominance, and U.S. irritation about what it perceives to be Germany’s reluctance to support its foreign policy goals are also weakening ties.