Germans Hope A Biden Win Would Boost Relations With The U.S.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And people are following the U.S. election in other parts of the world as well, including in Germany, where there's talk of how a win for Vice President Joe Biden would greatly benefit the ailing trans-Atlantic relationship. But some are cautious about that. Esme Nicholson has the story.
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GAYLE TUFTS: (Singing) Hey, U.S.A., you were my home. Now you're a dangerous zone - too many guns, way too much hate - (singing in German)...
ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Political cabaret has a long tradition here in Berlin, and one of the city's favorite artists happens to be an American. Gayle Tufts performs in Denglish, a mashup of English and German. Her shows play on the cultural differences between Americans and Germans. But since 2016, they've become much more political.
TUFTS: I think in the world that we live in now, it is unavoidable to talk about politics. Everything is politics.
NICHOLSON: Right now, Tufts is spending a lot of her time on news shows, whose hosts call on her to make sense of the U.S. election and to explain the difference between Germany's consensus-based coalition politics and America's adversarial two-party system.
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TUFTS: (Through interpreter) Biden telling Trump to shut up is not political discourse as here in Germany. And frankly, I find myself asking whether we'd all be better off if Germany's president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, were in the Oval Office.
NICHOLSON: Germany's political establishment makes no bones about the damage that four years of President Trump's "America First" foreign policy has done to German-U.S. relations. Some are equally candid about rooting for Joe Biden. Norbert Roettgen is the chair of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee and a candidate in the leadership race to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel.
NORBERT ROETTGEN: (Through interpreter) This election is a referendum on Trump. It's not really about Biden, although he does have a first-class political team whom we know very well. Everyone involved in foreign policy here in Berlin is on personal terms with Biden's people.
NICHOLSON: Roettgen says the German government has found communicating with Washington over the past four years a challenge. And, indeed, Trump's tone jars with a country whose own leader doesn't even have a Twitter account.
JANA PUGLIERIN: It feels like we are the one ally that President Trump likes the least, and we are singled out all the time and get a lot of criticism and blame.
NICHOLSON: Jana Puglierin is the head of the European Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin.
PUGLIERIN: The Germans, in the beginning, tried to establish some sort of relationship, and they managed with the - General Mattis or McMaster. These were the persons that one could establish a relationship with. But the more these people left the administration, the more difficult it became for the Germans.
NICHOLSON: It's worth remembering that the substance of Trump's criticism isn't that different from that of previous U.S. administrations. The Obama administration also urged Germany to meet its NATO spending target of 2% of GDP, and it also wanted Berlin to reconsider Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline project between Germany and Russia. And although a number of lawmakers in Berlin actually agree with Washington on some of these issues, Puglierin says they'd rather address them with Biden than with Trump.
PUGLIERIN: Joe Biden has already announced that he would rejoin the Paris climate agreement, would seek a deal with Iran. And he has said that, to him, allies matter a lot and that he would place the United States at the top of the table of multilateral discussions. And that's what the Germans particularly are looking for.
NICHOLSON: But politicians here also realize that a Biden administration will probably focus more on Asia than on its old allies in Europe. They say Germany should see the Trump years as a wake-up call to develop a more independent foreign policy that is less reliant on who occupies the White House.
For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.
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