Berlin Wall anniversary highlights fresh fault lines

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As the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approaches, the U.S. and European defense policy looks as shaky as ever after French President Emmanuel Macron called NATO ‘brain dead’ and the German defense minister said the country will not meet NATO budget obligations until 2031.

The commemoration for this historic event was supposed to be a three-day festivity of the Western allies, but the very defense issues that keep them together have revealed serious tensions.

A joint press conference of the U.S. and German foreign ministers was overshadowed after Macron’s statement about NATO and the German defense minister aired her differences with the US in the German media.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is still seen as a pivotal moment in 20th-century history. At the press conference in Leipzig, Germany on Thursday both U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas did their best to rise to the occasion, but the differences remained evident.

While Pompeo said that NATO was and will remain the most important military alliance in history, he also mentioned the need for European allies to raise their defense budgets to two percent of their respective GDPs.

At the same time, Pompeo reminded Germany that its development of a country-wide 5G mobile network should take into account the security risk represented by Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

In October, Germany finalized the rules for the development of its 5G network. Despite strong pressure from the U.S., Germany did not exclude Huawei from participating in its development.

At the same time, increasing the German defense budget has met strong opposition from German society. While the celebrations were in full swing, German Defense Minister Annegret Kremp-Karrenbauer said in an interview that the German defense budget will only reach two percent of GDP by 2031 as opposed to the 2014 NATO goal of reaching that spending level by 2024.

In addition, the two countries have yet to agree on the continued long-term stationing of 38,000 U.S. troops in Germany.

The sticking points on defense between the U.S. and Germany come on the heels of Macron accusing NATO of being ‘brain dead’, saying that coordination is lacking on defense and that Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. to defend its allies.

Title image: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) and German foreing minister Heiko Maas (R) in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall. (source: Reuters)

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