Vladimir Putin operates in the shadows. The Russian president controls a clever disinformation campaign with the aim of upsetting the populations of Western countries, discrediting their institutions, dividing society, influencing elections and ultimately causing the collapse of liberal democracy. Nevertheless, there are still many people who continue to believe that Putin is innocent and that the claims are merely the malicious fabrications of Western intelligence agencies. Is it all just a conspiracy theory?
Regarding Donald Trump's intentions, by contrast, there can no longer be any doubt. Since taking office, he has carried out a scorched-earth policy against multi-lateral treaties of all kinds. He is a man with no interest in foreign policy, seeing it merely as an instrument to pursue his "America First" ideology. He views cooperation as a weakness, the latest proof being the US withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Trump acts quite openly. And now, the American president has turned his attentions toward launching a disinformation campaign against Germany. He is doing so as a way of justifying his morally repugnant refugee policies to the American people.
The heartbreaking scenes at the southern U.S. border, where crying children are brutally separated from their parents for having committed the error of seeking a better life for themselves and their families in the U.S. is heaping pressure on even the most diehard Trump supporters. This zero-tolerance policy turned into a PR disaster, one that Trump now wants to contain by grasping at whatever straws he can - including attacks on Germany.
In an unprecedented step into German domestic affairs, the U.S. president seized on the current disagreements within Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition about refugee policy. The German people were "turning against their leadership," he tweeted gleefully, and followed that up with a blatant lie, saying "crime in Germany is way up." Europe, he intimated, had made the big mistake of letting in millions of people who had "violently" changed the culture.
Apart from the fact that this is all lies, the author is a man who bears more responsibility than any other for the ongoing, brutal attempts to rip down all that has beenlaboriously built up since World War II.
In a second tweet, Trump then repeated his lie about rising crime rates in Germany and said that "officials do not want to report these crimes." It reads like a speech that could be held at a right-wing extremist rally in Dresden.
The world has become worn down by Trump's bluster and used to his constant stream of lunacy. But this numbness shouldn't lead to the normalization and acceptance of his aggressive outrageousness. The claim - leveled without a shred of proof - that the German government and its officials would deliberately keep the true extent of criminality from the citizens of Germany should not go without consequences. His open support for German right-wing populists is nothing less than a blatant attack by a foreign power on this country's government. It is a direct attempt by the White House to destabilize the Federal Republic of Germany.
Angela Merkel has been far too restrained in her reaction to this threat. The chancellor simply responded that the crime figures recently presented by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer speak for themselves. Those statistics show that crime has in fact gone down slightly. And if there is one person in German politics who could never be accused of whitewashing crime statistics, it is Seefhofer, who is currently looking for any excuse possible to take an even harder line on migration.
No, this U.S. president was never a partner. He is a hostile opponent. We should finally start to treat him as such and act accordingly. Summoning the U.S. ambassador for a formal protest would be a good first step. Furthermore, relations to this U.S. government should be reduced to a bare minimum. It is also no longer necessary to pretend to be on friendly terms. Germany and the European Union should abandon polite self-restraint when dealing publicly with Trump and his government. We can't completely cut off the channels of communication, but they should be used sparingly.
We have long known that we could no longer rely on the United States under Donald Trump. Now, though, it has become clear that we have to protect ourselves from him.