A committed relationship is hard work, even when both sides really want it to succeed. Here’s your guide to Washington’s current “relationship status” with its most important partners around the world.
1. United Kingdom: “Let’s both take some time”
The Transatlantic alliance was at its weakest point since the 1930s even before June’s Brexit referendum, which will (eventually) remove a close U.S. ally from the E.U. fold. Now U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is wholly consumed with plotting a strategy to keep everyone satisfied as she negotiates a deal we must hope will benefit both sides. In the meantime, her country is becoming more insular and, therefore, a less valuable ally to the U.S. In fact, its highest-profile export these days is Brexit champion (and thrice-resigned UKIP leader) Nigel Farage, who is out stumping for the world’s latest anti-establishment candidates wherever he can find them. That will endear him to his good friend Donald Trump, but the new U.S. president’s “America First” approach to governing and intense debates within Britain over the country’s future relations with Europe ensure that both sides will back a bit further from the special relationship in coming years to attend to family business.
2. Germany—“I’m not going to change for you”
Say this for Angela Merkel; the German Chancellor knows how to stand her ground with men who behave badly. Here’s her congratulatory message following Trump’s victory: “Germany and America are bound by common values — democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.” In other words, “Behave well, Donald, and we’ll get along fine.”
Not many countries have the economic and political self-confidence to set the terms of relations with the U.S., but Germany is one of them. The same goes for Angela Merkel, who put her political career on the line by opening Germany’s door to Syrian refugees. Political realities have forced her to compromise here and there, but it’s clear that Merkel and Trump don’t share the same goals. Where Trump says what he feels he needs to say to close the deal he wants, Merkel stands on principle. That’s why the U.S. and Germany are growing apart.
Read More: How Donald Trump Broke With the GOP Again
3. Japan—“I can work with this”
Despite Trump’s determination to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a serious political setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan and the U.S. will remain strong allies. That’s in part because they share an obvious concern—China’s rise—and partly because Abe was quick to look past his disappointment to seize opportunities he believes that Trump can create for him. As soon as the votes were counted in the U.S., Abe was planning a trip to New York to sit down with the president-elect. Trump’s repeated insistence that allies must do more to safeguard their own security plays directly to Abe’s plans to strengthen Japan’s military, and Trump’s friendly attitude toward Russia’s Putin opens opportunities for Japan to engage Putin in hopes of regaining territory lost to the the Soviet Union during World War II. Trump and Abe are pragmatists. That will rebuild trust in a relationship that needed it.
4.Mexico—“I can’t take much more of this.”
One partner tells anyone who will listen that the relationship is making him angry, he insults his partner, and he brags that he’s about to show everyone who’s boss. Mexico has been hearing these tirades for months. Trump can’t completely walk back the public threats he’s made—on the border wall, NAFTA, and deportation of illegal immigrants, in particular—and Mexico has a lot less ability than China to push back when Trump makes threats. More than half of Mexico’s imports come from the United States and more than 70 percent of its exports go to the U.S.
5.Israel — “You know I still love you.”
There was no love lost between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. So from the Israeli prime minister’s perspective, things got a lot better on Nov. 8. Trump’s hard line on Iran and all things Islam reassures Netanyahu that America remains a reliable and powerful friend. But this relationship has always been on solid footing, because even when the partners were glaring at each other, the families still got along fine.
At every level of government, communication and cooperation between the U.S, and Israel have been strong for decades, and influential interest groups continue to protect the relationship in both countries. (AIPAC, the most powerful Israel lobby in the U.S., were among the first to force Trump onto a teleprompter!) Netanyahu won’t get everything he wants from Trump. Assad will remain in power in Syria, and Trump may balk at shredding the Iran nuclear deal, for example. But the foundation of this relationship remains as strong and resilient as ever.
- Why Cell Phone Reception Is Getting Worse
- The Dirty Secrets of Alternative Plastics
- Israeli Family Celebrates Release of Hostage Grandmother
- We Should Get Paid for Our Online Data: Column
- The COP28 Outcomes Business Leaders Are Watching For
- The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time