Germany–United States relations
|German Embassy, Washington, D.C.||United States Embassy, Berlin|
|Ambassador Emily Haber||Ambassador Richard Grenell|
Germany–United States relations, also referred to as German–American relations, refers to the bilateral relations between Germany and the United States. German–American relations are the historic relations between Germany and the United States at the official level, including diplomacy, alliances and warfare. The topic also includes economic relations such as trade and investments, demography and migration, and cultural and intellectual interchanges since the 1680s.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Country comparison
- 3 History
- 3.1 German immigration to the United States
- 3.2 Diplomacy and trade
- 3.3 1900-1919
- 3.4 Interwar
- 3.5 World War II and modern era
- 3.6 Post war
- 3.7 Cold War
- 3.8 United States and East Germany
- 3.9 Post-1990
- 4 Perceptions and values in the two countries
- 5 Military relations
- 6 Economic relations
- 7 Cultural relations
- 8 Research and academia
- 9 American cultural institutions in Germany
- 10 Diplomatic missions
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 External links
Before 1900, the main factors in German-American relations were very large movements of immigrants from Germany to American states (especially Pennsylvania, the Midwestern United States, and central Texas) throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
There also was a significant movement of philosophical ideas that influenced American thinking. German achievements in public schooling and higher education greatly impressed American educators; the American education system was based on the Prussian education system. Thousands of American advanced students- especially scientists and historians, studied at elite German universities. There existed little movement in the other direction: few Americans ever moved permanently to Germany, and few German intellectuals studied in America or moved to the United States before 1933. Economic relations were of minor importance before 1920. Diplomatic relations were friendly but of minor importance to either side before the 1870s.
After the Unification of Germany in 1871, Germany became a major world power. Both nations built world-class navies and began imperialistic expansion around the world. This led to a small-scale conflict over the Samoan islands, the Second Samoan Civil War. It reached a crisis in 1898 when Germany and the United States disputed over who should take control. The conflict was resolved with the Tripartite Convention in 1899 when the two nations divided up Samoa between them.
After 1898, the United States itself became much more involved in international diplomacy and found itself sometimes in disagreement but more often in agreement with Germany. In the early 20th century, the rise of the powerful German Navy and its role in Latin America and the Caribbean troubled American military strategists. Relations were sometimes tense, as in the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03 but all were resolved.
The United States tried to remain neutral in the First World War, but it provided far more trade and financial support to Britain and the Allies, which controlled the Atlantic routes. Germany worked to undermine American interests in Mexico. In 1917 the German offer of a military alliance against the U.S. in the Zimmermann Telegram contributed to the American decision for war. German submarine attacks on British shipping, especially the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania without allowing the civilian passengers to reach the lifeboats, outraged American opinion. Germany agreed to American demands to stop such attacks but reversed its position in early 1917 to win the war quickly. Berlin mistakenly thought that the US Army and Navy were so weak that they would not play a decisive role.
The US public opposed the punitive Versailles Treaty of 1919, and the two countries signed a separate peace treaty in 1921. In the 1920s, American diplomats and bankers provided major assistance to rebuilding the German economy. When Hitler and the Nazis took power in 1933, American public opinion was highly negative. Relations between the two nations turned sour after 1938.
Large numbers of intellectuals, scientists, and artists found refuge from the Nazis in the United States, but American immigration policy strictly limited the number of Jewish refugees. Washington provided significant military and financial aid to Britain and France. Germany declared war on the United States in December 1941, so Washington made the defeat of Nazi Germany its highest priority. The United States played a major role in the occupation and reconstruction of Germany after 1945. The United States provided billions of dollars in aid via the Marshall Plan to rebuild the West German economy. The two nations relationship became very positive, in terms of democratic ideals, anti-communism, and high levels of economic trade.
Today, the United States is one of Germany's closest allies and partners outside of the European Union. The people of the two countries see each other as reliable allies; however, they disagree on some key policy issues. Americans want Germany to play a more active military role, but Germans strongly disagree.
|Coat of Arms|
|Area||357,168 km² (137,847 sq mi)||9,526,468 km² (3,794,066 sq mi)|
|Population density||232/km² (601/sq mi)||31/km² (80/sq mi)|
|Largest city||Berlin – 3,690,000 (6,004,857 Metro)||New York City – 8,175,133 (19,006,798 Metro)|
|Government||Federal parliamentary republic||Federal presidential constitutional republic|
|First Leader||Konrad Adenauer||George Washington|
|Current Leader||Angela Merkel||Donald Trump|
|Official languages||German (de facto and de jure)||English (de facto)|
|Main religions||57.9% Christianity, 36.2% non-religious, 4.9% Islam, 1.0% other||69% Christianity, 22.8% non-religious, 1.9% Judaism, 1.6% Mormonism, 0.9% Islam, 0.7% Buddhism, 0.7% Hinduism|
|Ethnic groups||81.3% German, 3.4% Turkish, 2.3% Polish, 1.5% Russian, 11.5% other||74% White American, 13.4% African American, |
6.5% Some other race, 4.4% Asian American, 2% Two or more races,
0.7% Native American or Native Alaskan, 0.14% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
|GDP (nominal)||$3.65 trillion||$19.36 trillion|
|German Americans||99,891 American born people living in Germany||50,764,352 people of German ancestry living in the USA|
|Military expenditures||$41.3 billion (FY 2017) (see Bundeswehr)||$582.7 billion (FY 2017) (see Military budget of the United States)|
Leaders of Germany and United States from 1991
German immigration to the United States
For over three centuries, immigration from Germany accounted for a large share of all American immigrants. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, more than 20% of all Americans, and 25% of white Americans, claim German descent. German-Americans are an assimilated group which influences political life in the US as a whole. They are the most common self-reported ethnic group in the northern half of the United States, especially in the Midwest. In most of the South, German Americans are less common, with the exception of Florida and Texas.
The first records of German immigration date back to the 17th century and the foundation of Germantown near Philadelphia in 1683. Immigration from Germany to the US reached its first peak between 1749 and 1754 when approximately 37,000 Germans came to North America.
Since 1848, about seven million Germans have emigrated to the United States. Many of these Germans settled in the cities of Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and New York City. The failed German Revolutions of 1848 into 1849 (accompanied by similar upheavals that same pivotal year in other European states) accelerated emigration from Germany and the German Confederation. Those Germans who left as a result of the revolution were called the Forty-Eighters. Between the revolution and the start of World War I (1914–1918), over 70 years later, over one million Germans settled in the United States.
These Germans endured hardship as a result of overcrowded ships; Typhus fever spread rapidly throughout the ships due to the cramped conditions. On average, it took Germans six months to get to United States and many died on the journey to the New World.
By 1890 more than 40 percent of the population of the cities of Cleveland, Milwaukee, Hoboken and Cincinnati were of German origin. By the end of the nineteenth century, Germans formed the biggest self-described ethnic group in the United States and their customs became a strong element in American society and culture.
Political participation of German-Americans was focused on involvement in the labor movement. Germans in America had a strong influence on the labor movement in the United States. Newly founded labor unions enabled German immigrants to improve their working conditions and to integrate into American society.
A combination of patriotism and anti-German sentiment along with civil strife during the two world wars caused most German-Americans to cut their former ties and assimilate into mainstream American culture with disbanding of German cultural / genealogical and historical groups, the study and teaching of the German language and history in high schools and colleges/universities along with the removal of several German-related monuments or street/location names. During the time of the Nazi Germany and the Third Reich (1933–1945) before and during World War II (1939–1945), Germany had another major emigration wave of German Jews and other political anti-Nazi refugees leaving the Reich and even the continent.
Diplomacy and trade
During the American Revolution (1775–1783) King Frederick the Great of Prussia strongly hated the British because they had abandoned him in 1761, during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). He now favored France and impeded Britain's war effort in subtle ways, such as blocking the passage of Hessians soldiers. However, British trade was too important to lose and there was risk of attack from Austria, so he pursued a peace policy and maintained an official strict neutrality.
After the war, direct trade between the American ports of Baltimore, Norfolk, and Philadelphia and the old Hanseatic League ports of Bremen, Hamburg, and Luebeck grew steadily. Americans exported tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar and imported textiles, metal products, colognes, brandies, and toiletries. The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) and increasing instability in the German Confederation states led to a decline in the economic relationships between the United States and the Hanse. The level of trade never came close to matching the trade with Britain, and it faltered because the U.S. delayed a commercial treaty until 1827. American diplomacy was ineffective, but the commercial consuls, local businessmen, handled their work so well that the U.S. successfully developed diplomatic ties with Prussia. However, trade was minimal.
It was the Kingdom of Prussia that took the initiative, sending a trade experts to Washington, D.C. in 1834. The first permanent American diplomat came in 1835, when Henry Wheaton was sent to Prussia. The United States Secretary of State said that "not a single point of controversy exists between the two countries calling for adjustment; and that their commercial intercourse, based upon treaty stipulations, is conducted upon those liberal and enlightened principles of reciprocity... which are gradually making their way against the narrow prejudices and blighting influences of the prohibitive system." During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the German states all favored the northern Union, but played no major role.
In 1876 the German commissioner for the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia stated that the German armaments, machines, arts, and crafts on display were of inferior quality to British and American products. Germany industrialized rapidly after unification under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1870–1871, but its competition was more with Britain than with the U.S.. It bought increasing amounts of American farm products, especially cotton, wheat and tobacco, but tried to block American meat.
Pork war and protectionism
Starting with Germany in 1880, ten European countries-- Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Spain, France, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Romania and Denmark--imposed a ban on importation of United States pork in the 1880s. They responded to vague reports of trichinosis that supposedly originated with American hogs. At issue was over 1.3 billion pounds of pork products in 1880 with a value of $100 million annually. European farmers were alarmed at how cheap American food was overrunning their home markets for wheat, pork and beef. They demanded their governments fight back and called for a boycott. European manufacturing interests were also threatened by growing American industrial exports, and were angry at the high American tariff on exports from European factories. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck took a hard line, rejected the pro-trade German businessmen, and refused to join in scientific studies proposed by President Chester Arthur. American investigations reported that American pork was safe. Bismarck, with his base among the German landowners, insisted they be protected and ignored the leading German expert Professor Rudolf Virchow who condemned the embargo as unjustified,  American public opinion grew angry at Berlin. President Grover Cleveland rejected retaliation, but not President Benjamin Harrison. He charged Whitelaw Reid, minister to France, and William Walter Phelps, minister to Germany, to end the boycott without delay. Harrison also persuaded Congress to enact the Meat Inspection Act of 1890 to guarantee the quality of the export product. The president used Agriculture Secretary Jeremiah McLain Rusk to threaten Germany with retaliation by initiating an embargo against Germany's popular beet sugar. That proved decisive and in September 1891 Germany relented. Other nations soon followed; the boycott was over.
After unification in 1871, the new large, rich, ambitious German Empire built a world-class navy raising to number three behind the British and Americans, and began imperialistic expansion around the world. In 1889, the United States, Great Britain and Germany were locked in an escalating dispute over control of the Samoan Islands in the Pacific. The dispute had started in 1887 when the Germans tried to establish control over the island chain and President Cleveland responded by sending three naval vessels to defend the Samoan government. American and German warships faced off but all were badly damaged by the 1889 Apia cyclone of March 15-17, 1889. The delegates agreed to meet in Berlin to resolve the crisis. German Chancellor Otto Bismark decided to improve relations with the U.S. and Britain. The result was the Treaty of Berlin which established a three-power protectorate in Samoa. The three powers agreed to Western Samoa's independence and neutrality. When unrest continued, the treaty was annulled and Western Samoa became a German protectorate until it was seized by New Zealand in the First World War. Historian George H. Ryden argues that Harrison played a key role in determining the status of this Pacific outpost by taking a firm stand on every aspect of Samoa conference negotiations; this included selection of the local ruler, refusal to allow an indemnity for Germany, as well as the establishment of the three-power protectorate, a first for the U.S. A serious long-term result was an American distrust of Germany's foreign policy after Bismark was forced out in 1890.
In the late 19th century, the Kaiserliche Marine (German Navy) sought to establish a coaling station somewhere in the Caribbean Sea area. Imperial Germany was rapidly building a world-class navy but coal burning warships needed frequent refueling and could only operate within range of a coaling station. Preliminary plans were vetoed by Chancellor von Bismarck, who did not want to antagonize the U.S. but he was ousted in 1890 by the new Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the Germans kept looking.
German naval planners in the 1890–1910 pre-era denounced the U.S.'s Monroe Doctrine of the 1820s as a self-aggrandizing legal pretension. They were even more concerned with the possible American canal at Panama in Central America, as it would lead to full American hegemony in the Caribbean. The stakes were laid out in the German war aims proposed by the Navy two decades before "The Great War" in 1903: a "firm position in the West Indies," a "free hand in South America," and an official "revocation of the Monroe Doctrine" would provide a solid foundation for "our trade to the West Indies, Central and South America." By 1900 American "naval planners were obsessed with German designs in the Western Hemisphere and countered with energetic efforts to secure naval sites in the Caribbean."
In the Venezuela Crisis of 1902–1903, Britain and Germany sent warships to blockade Venezuela after it defaulted on its foreign loan repayments. Germany intended to land troops and occupy Venezuelan ports, but U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) forced the Germans to back down by sending his own fleet and threatening war if the Germans landed.
By 1904, German naval strategists had turned its attention to Mexico, where they hoped to establish a naval base in a Mexican port on the Caribbean. They dropped that plan, but it became active again after 1911, the start of the Mexican Revolution and subsequent Mexican Civil War.
Venezuelan defaulted on its foreign loan repayments in 1902, and Britain and Germany sent warships to blockade its ports and force repayment. Germany intended to land troops and occupy Venezuelan ports, but President Theodore Roosevelt forced the Germans to back down by sending his own fleet and threatening war if the Germans landed. the Venezuela episode focused American attention on the increasingly erratic and aggressive Kaiser William II. The media highlighted his militarism and belligerent speeches and imperialistic goals. At the same time, the British were becoming increasingly friendly toward the United States in world affairs. American opinion became more negative toward Germany than towards any other country in Europe.
World War I
World War I started in August 1914, and the United States insisted on neutrality. President Wilson's highest priority was to broker peace talks, using his trusted aide Colonel House. Apart from an Anglophile element urging early support for Britain, American public opinion reflected that of the president: the sentiment for neutrality was particularly strong among Irish Americans, German Americans, and Scandinavian Americans, as well as poor white southern farmers, cultural leaders, Protestant churchmen, and women in general. The British argument that the Allies were defending civilization against a German militaristic onslaught gain support after reports of atrocities in Belgium in 1914 and following the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915, the American citizens increasingly came to see Germany as the aggressor who had to be stopped. Former President Theodore Roosevelt and many Republicans were war hawks, and demanded rapid American armament. Wilson insisted on neutrality, and minimized wartime preparations in order to negotiate for peace. After the British ship Lusitania was sunk with over 100 American passengers drowned, Wilson demanded that German submarines must allow passengers and crew to reach their lifeboats. Germany reluctantly agreed, but in January 1917 decided that a massive infantry attack on the Western front, coupled with a full-scale attack on all food shipments to Europe, would prove decisive. It realized the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare meant war with the United States, but it calculated that American military forces would take years to arrive, by which time Germany would already be the victor. Germany reached out to Mexico with the Zimmermann Telegram, offering a military alliance against the United States, hoping the United States would diverge most of its attention to attacking Mexico. London intercepted the Zimmerman telegram, and it outraged American opinion.
President Wilson called on Congress to declare war on Germany in April 1917. The United States expected to provide money, munitions, food and raw materials but did not expect to send large troop contingents until Washington realized how weak the Allies were on the Western Front. After the exit of Russia from the war in late 1917, Germany could reallocate 600,000 experienced troops to their Western Front. by the summer, American troops were arriving at the rate of 10,000 a day, every day, replacing all the Allied losses while the German Army shrank day by day until it finally collapsed in November, 1918. On the homefront, the loyalty of German-Americans were frequently challenged. Any significant German cultural impact was seen with intense hostility and suspicion. Germany was portrayed as a threat to American freedom and way of life.
Inside Germany, the United States was another enemy and denounced as a false liberator, wanting to dominate Europe itself. As the war ended, however, the German people embraced Wilsonian promises of the just peace treaty. At the Paris peace conference of 1919, President Wilson used his enormous prestige, and cooperation with the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, to successfully block some of the extremely harsh French demands against Germany. Wilson devoted most of his attention to establishing the League of Nations, which he felt would end all wars. He also signed a treaty with France and Britain the guaranteed American support and Germany invaded France again. Returning home, Wilson refused all compromises with the Republicans, who control Congress, and the United States never ratified the Treaty of Versailles, never joined the League of Nations, and never ratified the Treaty with France and Britain.
Economic and diplomatic relations were positive during the 1920s. The United States government rejected the harsh anti-German Versailles Treaty of 1920, and signed a new peace treaty that involved no punishment for Germany, and worked with Britain to create a viable Euro-Atlantic peace system. Ambassador Alanson B. Houghton (1922–25) believed that world peace, European stability, and American prosperity depended upon a reconstruction of Europe's economy and political systems. He saw his role as promoting American political engagement with Europe. He overcame domestic opposition, and disinterest in Washington. He quickly realized that the central issues of the day were all entangled in economics, especially war debts owed by the Allies to the United States, reparations owed by Germany to the Allies, worldwide inflation, and international trade and investment. Solutions, he believed, required new policies by Washington and close cooperation with Britain and Germany. He was a leading promoter of the Dawes Plan.
Although the high culture of Germany looked down upon American culture, jazz was widely accepted by the younger generation. Hollywood had an enormous influence, as did the Detroit model of industrial efficiency.
German influence on American society was limited during that period. The flow of migration into the United States was small, and young American scholars seldom attended German universities for graduate work.
Nazi era 1933–41
Public opinion in the U.S. was strongly negative toward Nazi Germany and Hitler, but there was also a strong aversion to war and to entanglement in European politics. The Roosevelt administration publicly hailed the Munich Agreement of 1938 for avoiding war but privately realized it was only a postponement that called for rapid rearming. Formal relations were cool until November 1938, then turned very cold. The key event was American revulsion against Kristallnacht, the nationwide German assault on Jews and Jewish institutions. Religious groups which had been pacifistic also turned hostile. While the total flow of refugees from Germany to the U.S. was relatively small during the 1930s, many intellectuals did escape and resettled in the United States. Many were Jewish. Catholic universities were strengthened by the arrival of German Catholic intellectuals in exile, such as Waldemar Gurian at Notre Dame.
World War II and modern era
As the Second World War began in September 1939, the U.S. was officially neutral until December 11, 1941 when Germany declared war on the U.S. Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy strongly favored Britain (and France) over Germany in 1939–41. The United States played a central role in the defeat of the Axis Powers, meaning relations between Berlin and Washington, D.C. were inevitably terrible. Nazi Germany used American participation as one of the leaders of the Allies for extensive propaganda value—the infamous "LIBERATORS" poster from 1944 may be the most powerful example. In contrast to this, President Roosevelt was, as early as mid-March 1941, quite acutely aware of Hitler's views about the United States, with Roosevelt needing to balance the dueling issues of preparing the United States for likely involvement in a global conflict, and the still-strong desire by many Americans to avoid war at all costs; until the consequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor settled the issue.
In the aforementioned poster, which is shown in this article, the United States of America is depicted as a monstrous, vicious war machine seeking to destroy European culture. The poster alludes to many negative aspects of American history, including the Ku Klux Klan, the oppression of Native Americans, and lynching of blacks. The poster condemns American capitalism, America's perceived dominance by Judaism and shows American bombs destroying a helpless European village. However, America launched several propaganda campaigns in return towards Nazi Germany often portraying Nazi Germany as a warmongering country with inferior morale, and brainwashing schemes.
Following the defeat of the Third Reich, American forces were one of the occupation powers in postwar Germany. In parallel to denazification and "industrial disarmament" American citizens fraternized with Germans. The Berlin Airlift from 1948–1949 and the Marshall Plan (1948–1952) further improved the Germans' perception of Americans.
The emergence of the Cold War made the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) the frontier of a democratic Western Europe and American military presence became an integral part in West German society. The American presence may have helped smooth over possibly awkward postwar relationships, had they not come under the aegis of the biggest intact army and economy. This lessened the lag before the formation of the precursors to today's EU, and may be seen as a silent benefit of Pax Americana. During the Cold War, West Germany developed into the largest economy in Europe and West German-U.S. relations developed into a new transatlantic partnership. Germany and the U.S. shared a large portion of their culture, established intensive global trade environment and continued to co-operate on new high technologies. However, German-American cooperation wasn't always free of tensions between differing approaches on both sides of the Atlantic. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany marked a new era in German-American relations.
United States and East Germany
Relations between the United States and East Germany remained hostile. United States followed the Adenauer's Hallstein Doctrine of 1955, which declared that recognition by any country of East Germany would be treated as an unfriendly act by West Germany. Relations between the two Germanies thawed somewhat in the 1970s, as part of the overall détente between East and West. United States recognized East Germany officially in September 1974, when Erich Honecker was East Germany's party leader. To ward off the risk of internal liberalization on his regime, Honecker enlarged the Stasi from 43,000 to 60,000 agents.
The East German regime imposed an official ideology that was reflected in all its media and all the schools. The official line stated that the United States had caused the breakup of the coalition against Adolf Hitler and had become the bulwark of reaction worldwide, with a heavy reliance on warmongering for the benefit of the "terrorist international of murderers on Wall Street." East Germans had a heroic role to play as a front-line against the evil Americans. However few Germans believed it. They had seen enough of the Russians since 1945—a half-million Soviets were still stationed in East Germany as late as 1989. Furthermore, they were exposed to information from relatives in the West, as well as the American Radio Free Europe broadcasts, and West German media. The official Communist media ridiculed the modernism and cosmopolitanism of American culture, and denigrated the features of the American way of life, especially jazz music and rock 'n roll. The East German regime relied heavily on its tight control of youth organizations to rally them, with scant success, against American popular culture. The older generations were more concerned with the poor quality of food, housing, and clothing, which stood in dramatic contrast to the prosperity of West Germany. Professionals in East Germany were watched for any sign of deviation from the party line; their privileges were at risk. The solution was to either comply or flee to West Germany, which was relatively easy before the crackdown and the Berlin wall of 1961. Americans saw East Germany simply as a puppet of Moscow, with no independent possibilities.
During the early 1990s, the reunified Germany was called a "partnership in leadership" as the U.S. emerged as the world's sole superpower.
Germany's effort to incorporate any major military actions into the slowly progressing European Security and Defence Policy did not meet the expectations of the U.S. during the Gulf War. After the September 11 attacks, German-American political relations were strengthened in an effort to combat terrorism, and Germany sent troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO force. Yet, discord continued over the Iraq War, when then German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and foreign minister Joschka Fischer made efforts to prevent war and consequently did not join the U.S. and UK led multinational force in Iraq. Anti-Americanism rose to the surface after the attacks of 11 September 2001 as hostile German intellectuals argued there were ugly links between globalization, Americanization, and terrorism.
In July 2014, two Bundesnachrichtendienst officials were arrested by federal prosecutors for allegedly spying on the German government for the C.I.A.. Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the coordinator of CIA activity at Berlin's U.S. Embassy to leave his diplomatic post. In response to the arrests, Merkel said, "Viewed with good common sense, spying on friends and allies is a waste of energy. In the cold war it may have been the case that there was mutual mistrust. Today we live in the 21st century." The arrests followed the revelation that the NSA tapped the chancellor's cellphone. German attempts to be included in the non-spying pact the US has with the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were fruitless. Merkel on 18 July 2014 said trust could only be restored through talks and Germany would seek to have such talks. She reiterated the U.S. was Germany's most important ally, and nothing about their relationship would change. Nevertheless, German government officials in Berlin strengthened counterintelligence and planned new security measures in anticipation of prolonged frosty relations with the United States.
In May 2017, Angela Merkel met with U.S. president Donald Trump. Trump's statements that the U.S. had been taken advantage of in trade deals during previous administrations had already strained relations with several EU countries and other American allies. Without mentioning Trump specifically, Merkel said after a NATO summit "The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over," This came after Trump had said "The Germans are bad, very bad" and "See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this."
Perceptions and values in the two countries
The exploits of gunslingers on the American frontier played a major role in American folklore, fiction and film. The same stories became immensely popular in Germany, which produced its own novels and films about the American frontier. Karl May (1842–1912) was a German writer best known for his adventure novels set in the American Old West. His main protagonists are Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. The German fascination with Native Americans dates to the early 19th century; its literature voluminous. Typically the writings focus on "Indianness" and authenticity.
Germany and the United States are civil societies. Germany's philosophical heritage and American spirit for "freedom" interlock to a central aspect of Western culture and Western civilization. Even though developed under different geographical settings, the Age of Enlightenment is fundamental to the self-esteem and understanding of both nations.
The American-led invasion of Iraq changed the perception of the U.S. in Germany significantly. A 2013 BBC World Service poll shows found that 35% find American influence to be positive while 39% view it to be negative. Both countries differ in many key areas, such as energy and military intervention.
A survey conducted on behalf of the German embassy in 2007 showed that Americans continued to regard Germany's failure to support the war in Iraq as the main irritant in relations between the two nations. The issue was of declining importance, however, and Americans still considered Germany to be their fourth most important international partner behind the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan. Americans considered economic cooperation to be the most positive aspect of U.S.-German relations with a much smaller role played by Germany in U.S. politics.
Among the nations of Western Europe, German public perception of the U.S. is unusual in that it has continually fluctuated back and forth from fairly positive in 2002 (60%), to considerably negative in 2007 (30%), back to mildly positive in 2012 (52%), and back to considerably negative in 2017 (35%) reflecting the sharply polarized and mixed feelings of the German people for the United States.
During the Cold War, anti-Americanism was the official government policy in East Germany, and dissenters were punished. In West Germany, anti-Americanism was the common position on the left, but the majority praised the United States as a protector against Communism and a critical ally in rebuilding the nation. After 1990, the Communist Party in the East struggled under a new name, "Die Linke", and maintained their old anti-American position. Today, it warns that America is plotting to spoil Germany's friendly relationship with Russia. Germany's refusal to support the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was often seen as a manifestation of anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism had been muted on the right since 1945, but reemerged in the 21st century especially in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that began in opposition to European Union, and now has become both anti-American and anti-immigrant. Annoyance or distrust of the Americans was heightened in 2013 by revelations of American spying on top German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German-American military relations began in the Revolution when German troops fought on both sides. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a former Captain in the Prussian Army, was appointed Inspector General of the Continental Army and played the major role in training American soldiers to the best European standards. Von Steuben is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the United States Army.
Another German that served during the American Revolution was Major General Johann de Kalb, who served under Horatio Gates at the Battle of Camden and died as a result of several wounds he sustained during the fighting.
About 30,000 German mercenaries fought for the British, with 17,000 hired from Hesse, amounting to about one in four of the adult male population of the principality. These Hessians fought under their own officers under British command. Leopold Philip de Heister, Wilhelm von Knyphausen, and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Lossberg were the principal generals who commanded these troops with Frederick Christian Arnold, Freiherr von Jungkenn as the senior German officer.
German Americans have been very influential in the American military. Some notable figures include Brigadier General August Kautz, Major General Franz Sigel, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, and General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr..
The United States established a permanent military presence in Germany during the Second World War that continued throughout the Cold War, with a peak level of over 274,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany in 1962, and was drawn down in the early 21st century. The last American tanks were withdrawn from Germany in 2013, but they returned the following year to address a gap in multinational training opportunities. The U.S. had 35,000 American troops in Germany in 2017.
Germany and the United States are joint NATO members. Both nations have cooperated closely in the War on Terror, for which Germany provided more troops than any other nation. Germany hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Africa Command and the Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. Air Force base.
The two nations had opposing public policy positions in the War in Iraq; Germany blocked U.S. efforts to secure UN Resolutions in the buildup to war. Germany nonetheless quietly supported some U.S. interests in southwest Asia. German soldiers operated military biological and chemical cleanup equipment at Camp Doha in Kuwait; German Navy ships secured sea lanes to deter attacks by Al Qaeda on U.S. Forces and equipment in the Persian Gulf; and soldiers from Germany's Bundeswehr deployed all across southern Germany to U.S. Military Bases to conduct Force Protection duties in place of German-based U.S. Soldiers who were deployed to the Iraq War. The latter mission lasted from 2002 until 2006, by which time nearly all these Bundeswehr were demobilized. U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq received medical treatment at Germany's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
In March 2019, President Trump was reportedly drafting a demand that several countries, including Germany, pay the United States 150% of the cost of the American troops deployed on their soil. The proposed demand was criticized by experts. Douglas Lute, a retired general and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that Trump was using "a misinformed narrative that these facilities are there for the benefits of those countries. The truth is they’re there and we maintain them because they’re in our interest."
Economic relations between Germany and the United States are largely untroubled. The Transatlantic Economic Partnership between the U.S. and the EU, which was launched in 2007 on Germany's initiative, and the subsequently created Transatlantic Economic Council open up additional opportunities. The U.S. is Germany's principal trading partner outside the EU and Germany is the U.S.’s most important trading partner in Europe. In terms of the total volume of U.S. bilateral trade (imports and exports), Germany remains in fifth place, behind Canada, China, Mexico and Japan. The U.S. ranks fourth among Germany's trading partners, after the Netherlands, China and France. At the end of 2013, bilateral trade was worth $162 billion.
Germany and the U.S. are important to each other as investment destinations. At the end of 2012, bilateral investment was worth $320 billion, German direct investment in the U.S. amounting to $199 billion and U.S. direct investment in Germany $121 billion. At the end of 2012, U.S. direct investment in Germany stood at approximately $121 billion, an increase of nearly 14 per cent compared with the previous year (approximately $106 billion). During the same period, German direct investment in the U.S. amounted to some $199 billion, below the previous year's level (approximately $215 billion). Germany is the eighth largest foreign investor in the U.S., after the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands, Canada, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg, and ranks eleventh as a destination for U.S. foreign direct investment.
Karl May was a prolific German writer who specialized in writing Westerns. Although he only visited America once towards the end of his life, May provided Germany with a series of frontier novels, which provided Germans with an imaginary view of America.
Notable German-American architects, artist, musicians and writers include:
- Josef Albers, artist and educator
- Albert Bierstadt, known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West
- Philip K. Dick, writer
- Walter Gropius, architect
- Albert Kahn, architect
- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect
- Paul Hindemith, composer
- Philip Johnson, architect
- Otto Klemperer, conductor
- Henry Miller, writer
- Les Paul, guitarist
- Carl Schurz, politician and writer
- Dr. Seuss, writer and illustrator
- Alfred Stieglitz, photographer
- Kurt Vonnegut, writer
German takes third place after Spanish and French among the foreign languages taught at American secondary schools, colleges and universities. Conversely, nearly half of the German population can speak English well.
A German-American Friendship Garden was built in Washington, DC stands as a symbol of the positive and cooperative relations between the United States of America and the Federal Republic of Germany. It is situated on the historic axis between the White House and the Washington Monument on the National Mall, the garden borders Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets, where an estimated seven million visitors pass each year. The garden features plants native to both Germany and the United States and provides seating and cooling fountains. Commissioned to commemorate the 300th anniversary of German immigration to America, the garden was dedicated on November 15, 1988.
Research and academia
Following the Nazi rise to power in 1933, and in particular the passing of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service which removed opponents and persons with one Jewish grandparent from government positions (including academia), hundreds of physicists and other academics fled Germany and many came to the United States. James Franck and Albert Einstein were among the more notable scientists who ended up in the United States. Many of the physicists who fled were subsequently instrumental in the wartime Manhattan Project to develop the Nuclear bomb. Following the World War II, some of these academics returned to Germany but many remained in the United States.
After WWII and during the Cold War, Operation Paperclip was a secret United States Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA) program in which more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians (many of whom were formerly registered members of the Nazi Party and some of whom had leadership roles in the Nazi Party), including Wernher von Braun's rocket team, were recruited and brought to the United States for government employment from post-Nazi Germany. Wernher von Braun, who built the German V-2 rockets, and his team of scientists came to the United States and were central in building the American space exploration program.
Researchers at German and American universities run various exchange programs and projects, and focus on space exploration, the International Space Station, environmental technology, and medical science. Import cooperations are also in the fields of biochemistry, engineering, information and communication technologies and life sciences (networks through: Bacatec, DAAD). The United States and Germany signed a bilateral Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation in February 2010.
American cultural institutions in Germany
In the post-war era, a number of institutions, devoted to highlighting American culture and society in Germany, were established and are in existence today, especially in the south of Germany, the area of the former U.S. Occupied Zone. Today, they offer English courses as well as cultural programs.
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