A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation

AICGS is pleased to announce a new project entitled “A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation: Global Responsibility, Joint Engagement,” which engages young Americans and Germans in discussions of global issues of concern for the transatlantic relationship. The 3-year project is funded by the Transatlantik-Programm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland aus Mitteln des European Recovery Program (ERP) des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Energie (BMWi). A group of eight participants per program area and project year (July 1 – June 30) come together with AICGS project leaders during two virtual meetings (video conferences) and two conferences in Washington, DC.

With radical unpredictability being a factor on both sides of the Atlantic – in Germany, uncertainty regarding coalition formation and in the US, incoherence coming not only from the White House but also from Congress – anticipating some of the key obstacles as well as areas of common interest facing the transatlantic partnership is a core task for participants in the AICGS Project: A German-American Dialogue of the Next Generation. The project’s Foreign and Domestic Policy group have a variety of expertise, including energy and climate policy, international security, foreign policy and populism. During the first virtual meeting, the group identified several critical issues:

Assessing the Transatlantic Relationship

Are there areas where the US and Germany can find common ground? What are the areas of potential cooperation? Where will there be divergences?

  • Going back to first-principles: the importance of the transatlantic partnership should be highlighted on both sides of Atlantic. The European public’s contempt for Trump’s America and a general skepticism regarding U.S. policies is harmful to transatlantic relations.
  • Although taking the long-term perspective is important, some of the more immediate tendencies of the government cannot be ignored. Reactionary instincts and impulses might be damaging for long-run prospects.
  • It remains an open question whether Germany will be making concessions to U.S. demands, e.g., defense spending. The U.S. needs to find balanced solutions regarding common challenges that resonate in and do not irritate Berlin.
  • There are many shared concerns and challenges, including counterterrorism, migration, energy and populism. The current, aggressive rhetoric emphasizes divisions and neglects commonalities.
  • Since Germany has become the primary interlocutor for the U.S. in Europe, what will German leadership look like? What are the respective responsibilities of the U.S. and Germany in the global order?

Climate and Energy

How can Germany and the U.S. join forces in developing new sources of energy and providing access to them on a global scale? In what ways can sub-state level actors contribute?

  • Crafting effective energy policy is a potential area for the alignment of interests; there is overlapping agreement on energy efficiency and developing domestic energy sources.
  • In light of Nord Stream 2 and the risk of stranded assets, it may be worthwhile to discuss the types of infrastructures that should not be built or expanded.
  • Since the fate of the Paris climate accord has been questioned by President Trump, sub-state actors have stepped up their collaborative efforts in the international arena. An example is the initiative undertaken by California with Ontario and Quebec to merge their carbon markets. A multilevel approach is therefore a worthwhile consideration.
  • At the federal level, the narrative in the United States has moved from energy independence to energy dominance.
  • In Central Asia, energy is being used as an export tool; this is a strategy that has not been deployed in the U.S.
  • Fostering a positive narrative on the viability of renewable energy is crucial, particularly at a time when the Bundestag will be dealing with climate skeptics in parliament for the first time (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD). Ongoing doubt about climate change in the U.S. is also a hurdle.
  • Common ground can be found even when convictions are diametrically opposed. For example, an avid environmentalist and a die-hard climate change denier may still agree on the advantages of finding different sources of energy, regardless of fundamentally divergent principles.
  • The recent ruling by the ITC in favor of protectionism regarding the import of Chinese solar panels illustrates that populism can have a powerful influence over energy policy.
  • There are huge potential opportunities for development in carbon capture and storage technology. Boosting energy efficiency by creating shared infrastructures is advantageous for both partners.
  • The global strategic narrative is shifting away from climate change mitigation towards climate This has positive implications for the transatlantic relationship.

Populism

What are the solutions to reforming and refreshing political systems to make them more responsive to citizens’ needs and fears and more responsible in our current contentious atmosphere?

  • Populism can be defined not as an ideology, but as a form of strategic communication. It is an appeal to the emotions of people for the distaste of political establishment.
  • There has been an erosion of traditional understandings of ‘left’ and ‘right’; the conventional dichotomy has been replaced by those that are ‘for’ or ‘against’ globalization. Anger stems from the fact that nation-states can no longer protect their citizens from the effects of globalization to the same degree.
  • President Trump is a symptom of U.S. grievances rather than source. Elites are not the ones that need to be convinced that multilateral approaches are vital. Rather, it is the public that must find resonance with this message.
  • The feeling of being left behind by globalization will only be exacerbated by the growing prominence of artificial intelligence and other forms of technological innovations in the work environment.
  • Past the sound bite: how do we construct messages that push a more nuanced outlook? On the other hand, it is acknowledged that slogans resonate with the public when there is an underlying need that has not been addressed.
  • It is impossible to “out-promise” populists. Therefore, it would be a mistake for politicians to attempt to do so. Yet, to some extent, all candidacies are based on hollow, vague promises.
  • Although populism plays out differently in the United States and Germany, are there common threads that one can extract lessons from?

International Security

  • Matters of international security and terrorism will continue to be issues that outlast the current administration. Nuclear security issues concerning Iran and North Korea fit this analysis as well.
  • From the European perspective, the Iranians are essentially in compliance with the Iran deal. The Americans pulling out of the Iran deal now will only produce a messy battle. Obama’s concessions, made under the assumption that Iran was moderating, now looks naive given Iran’s aggressiveness in the region in the past year. The Americans should consider holding out for the prospect of recertification at a later date (perhaps with an amenable Macron).
  • Issues are inextricably interrelated; decisions on the Iran deal will be a factor in the North Korean nuclear conversation.
  • Germany and Merkel want to avoid the perception that they are catering to the will of the U.S. and Trump. There is an insistence that decisions should be based on a calculated evaluation of the available options to select appropriate policies benefiting Europe. There can be creative solutions to find compromise; Germany may be more willing to increase their defense spending for projects involving health technologies, crisis prevention, or joint defense with its European partners.

Leaders in the transatlantic network can work towards strengthening ties in less contentious areas, such as those related to the technology sector and cybersecurity. Hybrid warfare was also highlighted as an area for further investigation.

September 27, 2017