Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Time for Tough Talk with Trump

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    President Donald Trump’s investiture on Friday could bring about radical changes in global politics; Germany and Europe should therefore change the tone with the U.S. and assert themselves on the global stage.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was Germany’s Defense Minister from 2009 to 2011, and as such he worked closely with NATO, which Mr. Trump recently called “obsolete.”
    • He currently resides in New York and is the chairman and founder of venture capital firm Spitzberg Partners.
    • In a recent interview in a German paper, Mr. Trump heavily criticized the European Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel and went on to threaten to slap a 35-percent import levy for BMW cars imported from Mexico.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf
51st Munich Security Conference
Mr. zu Guttenberg, who now lives in the U.S., believes Donald Trump is a man who has more respect for self-assertive counterparts. Source: Getty.

With just a few hours to go before President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony, former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has called on Berlin to ditch what he called its “passive, wait-and-see” attitude towards the United States and nurture “a culture of responsibility” instead.

In a guest column in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published Friday, the former conservative politician said Mr. Trump’s rise was a time for the German government to “be prepared to do more.”

Mr. zu Guttenberg is a former rising star of German politics who resigned from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet in 2011 amid accusations that he had plagiarized large sections of his doctorate thesis. He has since moved to the U.S. and built a career as a trans-Atlantic specialist in New York, where he followed the American election closely.

The ex-politician, fearing the 45th President of the U.S. would usher in an era in which “the erratic becomes the norm,” expressed deep skepticism of Mr. Trump’s approach to policymaking. “The lack of government experience, which he wears like a badge of honor, cannot be compensated for by ‘deal making’ alone,” he said.

The irony of “nominally Communist” China advocating for free trade at this week’s Davos World Economic Forum, “while the president of the biggest capitalist economic powerhouse swears by protectionism” was not lost on Mr. zu Guttenberg. However, the former statesman underlined that Europe shouldn’t give up authority over free trade to China.

“It certainly won’t be easy to convince Trump of the absurdity of his approach. But Berlin will be more successful than Beijing. In a language that Trump understands: clear, constructive and, if necessary, hard.”

And most of all, Berlin should not lose sight of the bigger picture. It would be folly to sacrifice the economy, security and political stability for future generations just because of “personal dislike,” Mr. zu Guttenberg warned.

 

Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. To contact the author: hauteville@handelsblatt.com.

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