In a wide-ranging interview with Der Spiegel published Monday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas suggested that President Trump's use of Twitter makes Maas's work more difficult.
After a reporter from Der Spiegel suggested that the United States is “no longer reliable” and that Trump is “unpredictable,” Maas responded: “For me, reliability is one of the most important political qualities, particularly in foreign policy.”
“Despite everything, we are all dependent on that, including in the trans-Atlantic relationship,” he said. “It doesn't make it any easier when you find yourself confronted by surprising tweets every day.”
However, the German foreign minister continued, he still thinks that the United States represents Western values. “Luckily, the trans-Atlantic relationship is made up of much more than 280 characters in Twitter,” he said. “It remains clear to us: We need the USA. Only together will we be able to meet the large international challenges facing us.”
Maas is a fresh face on the diplomatic scene. He was named foreign minister last month and had no major international experience before that. Despite this, in his short time in office he has made waves with a hard stance on Russia — a break with his predecessor and fellow Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, who sought a less-confrontational tone.
Speaking to Der Spiegel, Maas said that Germany's Russia policy should accept reality. “Russia has increasingly defined itself in distinction to, and partly in opposition to, the West,” he said. “Unfortunately, Russia has been acting in an increasingly hostile manner: the nerve-agent attack in Salisbury [England], the role it is playing in Syria and eastern Ukraine, hacker attacks, including on the German Foreign Ministry.”
Maas criticized Moscow's use of the veto to block U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria. “The international community cannot and should not accept a situation in which the most important U.N. body is being rendered impotent,” he said.
At the same time, the foreign minister defended Berlin's decision not to get involved militarily in Syria alongside U.S. and European allies and instead emphasized the country's humanitarian role. Maas, who has said he was motivated to get into politics because of the horrors committed by Nazi Germany, said he doesn't think the situation in Syria is comparable.
“Syria is not Auschwitz,” he said, referring to the notorious Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
This is not the first time that Maas has expressed doubts about Trump's rhetoric and policies. Last year, when he served as the nation's justice minister, he criticized Trump's handling of the violent, far-right protests in Charlottesville, during which a woman was killed. “No one should trivialize anti-Semitism and racism by neo-Nazis,” Maas said in a statement.
Gabriel was also critical of Trump when he was German foreign minister, labeling Trump a “pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement” after Trump won the 2016 election.
At the Munich Security Conference in February, top U.S. lawmakers and national security officials tried to reassure European allies such as Gabriel that Trump's tweets do not always represent U.S. policy.
That argument was undermined just hours later, when Trump used Twitter to criticize comments made at the conference by H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser at the time.
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