tv Wolfgang Ischinger World in Danger CSPAN January 16, 2021 8:01am-9:01am EST
flowers on her efforts to improve sanitation conditions in rural areas across america. go online to booktv.org or consult your program guide. and now the weekend begins with former german ambassador to the united states wolfgangishinging ger's -- wolfgang ischinger's thoughts. >> hello, my name is walter russell mead, global view columnist for the wall street journal. today i have the pleasure of speaking with ambassador wolfgang ischinger about his new book, "world in danger: germany and europe in uncertain times, the future of the european union and trans-atlantic relations." the ambassador joined the foreign service in 1975, served as deputy foreign minister and as director of policy, planning and political director of the foreign ministry in the 1990s. he's been germany's ambassador
to the united states and as well to the united kingdom. the ambassador has been chairman of the munich security conference since 2008 and teaches at the heritage school of governance in berlin as senior professor. he advises the private sector the, governments and international organizations on strategic issues. he's published widely. in "world in danger"," he identifies the problems posed for germany and the european union, he also offers a vision for the e.u.'s future which he hopes will be peaceful, prosperous, secure and influential. ambassador, it's great to see you again. welcome to hudson institute and thank you very much for agreeing to discuss your actually quite fascinating book with me this morning. the title of the book is a
provocative one, especially coming from such a senior member of the german foreign policy world. as you say, the end of the cold war, at the end of the cold war, much of the west and its political leadership believed the world was a better and safer place. and now you are writing about our dangers. what's changed and what are the dangers? >> well, first of all, walter, thank you for having me. it's such a pleasure to meet with you, if only virtually. i wish i could, or i could have travel thed to washington and to new york to talk about my book and the future of trans-atlantic cooperation now that we have had the elections in your country. but, you know, when i, when i wrote the book and when we had to decide about the title, this was, of course, smack in the
middle of the trump years. and, quite frankly, when we decided to call it -- [speaking german] which translates exactly into "world in danger," some people said isn't this a little over the top, isn't this too, you know, catastrophic? is the world really in such bad shape? well, if i had had a chance eight months or ten months ago to review the title, i would have probably said world in great danger because we have seen, at least in my view, a falling apart of the kind of global and regional order, so-called liberal international order built on the idea of the rule of law. and of promoting
democracy. that kind of international order has tended to fall apart, and we were onlookers, rather helpless onlookers for a significant period of time. i would say at at this very moment, at the beginning of december 2020, the outlook is beginning to be a little less grim because i think there are now wonderful, great opportunities waiting to be seized. but until very recently, until early november, my view of the global situation and my view of the situation in and around europe was really quite grim. >> we'll come back to the question of how president-elect
biden's election may change things or what a new american leadership might do. but i think it is the, i think it's going to be helpful for an american audience to understand the, you know, the nature of the concerns that you had. because it does seem that, you know, when i listen to chancellor merkel, to defense minister or people over at the european commission, all of them are really speaking in very new ways about germany's role in the world and the need for kind of a strategic rethink. and i think it'd be helpful for an american audience to understand just how the german perception of the world and of the tasks confronting german foreign policy is have changed in the last few years. it's not all, as you know, it's not all about trump. there are many other things at work here.
>> well, let me, leapt me start by -- let me start by going back to the moment of unification, reunification of germany which was almost exactly 30 years ago, you know, in october of 1990. that historic event which brought peace to germany and the unification of the two parts, that created a situation in the minds of many millions of germans that now, you know, paradise is about to begin. the red army is going to leave, the red army, the soviet army did leave because the soviet union was beginning to disintegrate within a year or year and a half of the moment of unification. and germans began to think that, you know, now things are fine,
and we can just simply love the status quo, and we don't have to worry about being a front-line state anymore with hundreds of thousands of soviet troop it is on the other side and the u.s. army and air force all over west germany helping to defend and to deter risks of war and conflict in central europe. now, in 2014 at the munich security conference which i have the privilege of organizing and chairing each year, the president of the federal republic of germany at that time gave a rather fundamental speech, and he said germany should now wake up and accept a
larger responsibility for handling the future of europe and for participating in global affairs. and that created quite a, quite a debate. the interesting thing was this speech happened in february of 2014, and, you know, what happened next was that the european security architecture as we believed, you know, it had existed since the early 1990s disintegrated in a big crash, of course, in chi mia and eastern ukraine -- crimea within a month. that was in 2014. and then within a year or two, you had a in the united states the election of donald trump. wow, no one in europe had thought that that would be possible. and the same year our british neighbors decided to walk away from the european union.
and my, i could, i could continue with this list of unexpected security-related things that have been happening for the last five or six years. in other words, we have had a really serious wake-up call. and this is being, the narrative in germany is that when angela merkel came back from her first discussion with donald trump in the white house in washington in the spring of 2017, she spoke out and she said i guess we cannot in the future rely in the same way that we have relied for the last five decades, six decades on others protecting us and taking care of our security. i think we will have to handle a
greater share of that ourselves. that was a, that was a simple sentence in a longer speech, but it has created this awareness9 that the world is changing and that there is no law of nature that would make it an eternal guarantee that the united states of america would always be there to handle our problems in europe whether it's in the balkans or in ukraine or in syria or elsewhere whenever a political-military problem arises, the u.s. would solve it for us. we need to understand that is not, there's no automatic guarantee. we should hope that the united states would continue to define itself as a power in europe, as a power present in europe and
actively engaged in europe, but we do have to do more about our own, our own security, our own future. i think that is what has bothered us and what has concerned us. this wake-up call came quite unexpectedly especially for germans who thought, you know, we're now living in paradise. all our neighbors are now our friends. we're surrounded by e.u. and nato partners. the soviet union is gone. why do we need to care. which led to a significant decrease in the german military and which has led to the fact over or the haas decade or so -- last decade or so that people have not really been interested in issues of military, security and defense. and all of a sudden we're finding out that if we don't
participate in trying to manage security issues whether it's in mali in africa or in syria or in eastern ukraine, these conflicts will have a tendency of coming our way. whether it's through terrorist movements or migratory rates as we have experienced since 2015, you know? hundreds of thousands, as you know, millions of migrants and refugees from afghanistan, from syria, from libya coming across the mediterranean or via the balkans. that has created a new sense of insecurity and a need to get our hands around these issues that we cannot always expect the united states to come and bail us out. >> this is, i mean, i think it's -- you're right.
and history keeps moving even when we feel that we would like it to stop. but i have noticed that, i mean, maybe you can help me with this, it seems to me that the group of political family has been the sort of most vocal about this and that some other parties may be taking it a little bit differently. are the spd and the greens part of this strategic rethink, or how are they processing this new world environment? >> well, you are absolutely right. of course, the left represented germany by the social democratic party, the left has had, if i may call it that, a kind of a pacifist streak, a left wing that is not very hot about, you
know, being in nato and having american nuclear weapons on european soil, etc., etc., etc. and these, this wing of the social democratic party has not held the idea in high esteem that it would be a great idea, a necessary idea, in fact, for us to meet the famous 2% goal that nato decided to define six years ago, in 2014. spending 2% of gdp for defense. so, yeah, we have political forces even within our current governing coalition that are not really in favor of moving in this direction. but, now comes the big but, as you know, we have elections coming up next september. and the likelihood is that we will not end up with the exact
same kind of government coalition. there is some likelihood that the next coalition government in germany would include the cdu, angela merkel's party, because it has maintained its status as the single biggest political force in germany. but the green party, the green party has risen over the years and is now de facto number two in the hierarchy of political forces. so there is some likelihood -- i'm not trying to predict the outcome, but there is at least a serious possibility that we might have the greens in the german government again. now remember, we had the greens before. remember fischer and the greens in the days of the kosovo in '99
actually overcame their resentment against the use of military force and accepted the idea that, yes, if we have to participate in trying to prevent a genocidal activities by president milosevic in kosovo then, you know, we don't like it, but we probably have to. so we -- the greens even then accepted the idea that the use of military force under special circumstances might be necessary, and they agreed, and the coalition atta time did not -- at that time did not fall apart. the greens are now, you know, 20 years later in, there's a new generation coming up. and the greens are trying again to present themselves as a respectable, not as a far-left or only green, only committed to green issues kind of party, but as a serious political force.
and i have heard leaders of the green party speak out about the need to support nato. i have heard senior members of the green party speak out about supporting a bigger defense budget even. that is not going to go down very well with all the wings of the green party, but simply to say that things are changing even in the german landscape, german political landscape where for obvious political, historical and other reasons the military has not enjoyed the kind of centrality that it might have enjoyed or it might still be enjoying, for example, in your country or even in france or in the united kingdom. but things have changed. so i am not without some degree of optimism that the next german
coalition will, in fact, follow this advice issued or expressed six years ago. germany needs to take more responsibility, germany needs to accept a kind of co-leadership role even on such painful issues as war and peace issues, conflict resolution issues together with france, together with other powers in the european union. >> yep. and i know one of the reasons you wrote the book was to try to communicate this new strategic vision to a broader public audience in germany. how has -- what's the response to the book been, and do you think german public opinion, which i think is behind the lead opinion a bit in this new thinking, how is that moving and what are the prospects? >> i think the -- i wouldn't
overrate the, you know, the relevance of my book or of other publications. i would not want to overrate the importance of this. but, but the lack of a strategic debate which was apparent, which was -- the lack was visible in german pretty are call culture -- political culture. we did not have a meaningful strategic debate in the way that you have it among the many think tanks and institutions and government agencies in washington or in new york, etc. that has started to change also. the german government accepted the fact that we needed to encourage think tanks to be
developed and to be funded. the german government even put some money aside to support a numb of think tank activities -- a number of think tank activities in the area of security or and defense. for example, speaking of myself, as you mentioned at the beginning i'm part-time teaching as a senior professor at the graduate school in berlin. it would not have been possible, walter, ten years ago to have a graduate seminar in downtown berlin on the question of what use for and how to think about nuclear weapons in europe as part of our defensive and deterrent arrangement. ten the years ago you would have had a bunch of left-wing demonstrators outside your seminar room, and they would
have probably made it impossible for you to conduct your seminar. my seminar where we discuss these types of issues has not been disturbed. so even in berlin, which berlin is not known as a conservative city -- [laughter] even in berlin things have started to change. i'm not trying to suggest that we are now, you know, that we're now free of problems. no, i'm -- on the contrary, this is still an uphill battle. but my, the point i'm trying to make is because some politicians have started to talk about security, because a number of books have been published, because television debates have started to focus on the question of how are we supposed to protect not only our own borders, but our partners
whether they are in eastern europe -- and some of them are terribly afraid of possible russian aggressive behavior, as you know -- how are we supposed to deal with the bloody conflict in our immediate neighborhood whether it's libya, syria or yemen, the ongoing conflict. so how can we, as a major economic power in europe, contribute to non-proliferation. how can we help restore some kind of negotiation on the iranian nuclear program, for example. this is important. it's important to israel, it's important to the united states, it's very important to us. my own country is a non-nuclear country. we don't like new nuclear powers to pop up whether it's in europe, in asia or elsewhere in
the world. >> one of the things that i think both fascinates and perplexes americans when they look at european strategic discussions is the franco-german relationship. and, you know, we sometimes don't understand where you agree and where you disagree. it -- but in some ways it seems that germany is calling for more strategic autonomy in europe and, certainly, france has been calling for this at least since the time of charles de gaulle. in some ways the views are closer than before, and yet it also seems that some very significant differences remain. so how would you explain to a bunch of us poor perplexed americans what is this debate and how should we understand it? >> it's a very, it's a very interesting debate, it's a very interesting debate. but it's more a debate about
content and words than about substance. let me be very clear, in germany mainstream thinking, i mean, mainstream government thinking is we need nato. we cannot guarantee our own survival, we cannot arrange to be, to be safe from extortion, from military pressures. we, as a non-nuclear country, if we do not have a nuclear reassurance program -- reinsurance program offered through nato by the united states. for us, this is a sheer necessity. at the same time, we believe
that in order to become a more meaningful partner for the united states we need, in fact, to build up our capabilities to act. and it really doesn't matter whether you speak of european sovereignty or european strategic autonomy. the idea, the german idea is let's build up our own capabilities to act militarily when that becomes necessary that will make of us a more meaningful, a more respected partner of the united states. our french neighbors actually mean mostly the same thing but with a slight french touch. and, walter, you know what i mean when i say the current discussion with emmanuel macron on the one hand and german
leaders like our defense minister on the other hand, it reminds me a little bit of the kinds of discussions we had in the 1960s between charles de gaulle and conrad -- [inaudible] where de gaulle said do we really need the americans in europe? do we really need military integration in nato? maybe we don't. france regarded itself as more autonomous. it actually was a nuclear power and till is. still is. we aren't. so there is a, there is a difference in how we approach this. but as a matter of fact in the real world we want the same thing. we want a more capable european union effort. we want to be able to provide a large contribution through the e.u. or directly to nato within the nato organization.
so i would not attach significant strategic importance to this current dispute. it is really the same story that, you know, of french views versus german views from the 1960s to the present. some things in history don't change. it's really quite interesting. >> i can't remember if it was winston churchill or conrad eden flower who said the heaviest cross i have to bear is the cross of lorraine. [laughter] >> it was conrad who -- no, i'm sorry, it was helmut coarse who said and i remember because one time he actually said it in my presence. he said it is a smart idea to bow your head twice in front of the -- [inaudible] in other words, pay special
tribute to the -- of france. and i thought that was a smart move. and he meant it seriously. when you consider the history of germany and france and the wars that have, that have been fought ever since, you know, the 1870-71 war up through the end of world war ii, it's probably a good idea to be extremely respectful of france if you come from germany. and i think that has created a very, very trustful relationship. and i hope, you know, yesterday the former president of france passed away at age, i think, 94. and those of us who are of the older generation will remember
how as the president of france and helmut schmidt as the chancellor of germany in the late 1970s and early 1980 worked together to the benefit of a more capable european union. they worked together to, they were instrumental in creating the g5, g6, g7 arrangements together with president ford and others. there was bold leadership at the time between germany and france. also on currency issues, on economic issues. and when i consider the passing, i would say my wish would be that we would see over the coming period after the german elections and, of course, macron is up for re-election a year later, i would hope that we
would see the reemergence of bold franco-german leadership to take the european union to the next level. if the germans and the french don't show some leadership qualities, who should? >> as i look at american foreign policy these days, i see, you know, two areas of consensus even in our current distracted state. one is that the united states needs to do more in the indo-pacific, and the other is that, if possible, we should try to figure out how to do less in the middle east. those are -- you can talk to people from the far left to the far right, and you tend to hear that consensus. obviously, a lot of disagreement about hue to do it -- how to do it, the priorities and so on and so forth. but both of those pose interesting questions for
europeans because it does involve a further shift of the american kind of center of gravity of foreign policy from the atlantic to the indo-pacific. but also given the state of the middle east, my sign of an america that was trying to reduce its responsibilities or activities in the middle east leaves an enormous vacuum. and in the 19th century, we might have -- europe might have said, ha, an opportunity. we can expand our influence, we can gain power. now i think the feeling is, oh, my gosh, what a terrible, you know, this is a burden. this is a problem. what does europe do with the middle east in your thinking? what is the european approach if the americans are, in fact, i wouldn't say stepping out completely, but stepping back a bit?
>> well, first of all, i would say it is not in the interest of the european union that the united states withdraws more than has already been the case from the middle east. i don't think that we would be in a position to try to replace the role which the united states has played for the last half century in the middle east. and the first signs of withdrawal from the region by, you know, not the trump administration, but during the obama years remember the red lines in the sand of syria, etc., etc. that has led, in my view at least, to a series of shock
waves among the rulers of the middle east. and as you point out correctly, in international diplomacy if there is a advantage -- vacuum, there will not be a vacuum for a long time. others will try to fill the void and step in. and we have seen that russia has, of course, taken advantage of the opportunity of establishing themselves, reestablishing themselves, if you wish, as a major presence thiess in some parts of the -- at least in some parts of the region. china is increasing its influence. are we, the e.u., capable of playing a strategic role in the region? i don't think even if, even as an optimist, as a diplomatic optimist i don't think so. so it would be definitely in the european, in the interest of
europe to have the united states continue to be present in the middle east and to play a significant role. how could we even think about creating an atmosphere of negotiation about the iranian nuclear ambition if the united states were not a very active and probably were not the leading participant in such an enterprise? so i would urge the united states not to walk away from the middle east. the other issue which you mentioned, watter, is of course -- walter, is, of course, the indo-pacific, is china. and that is, in my view, going to be the single biggest challenge for the trans-atlantic
community in the not just in the months, but in the years to come. my own -- just very briefly, my understanding, and tell me if i'm wrong, my understanding is that there is significant bipartisan agreement in washington that the sort of more confrontational position adopted by the trump administration vis-a-vis china was not wrong. and even joe biden, as i recall, said during the campaign i will be tough on china. well, if that's the american approach to china, the european approach at this moment is not quite there. we have seen a significant change in the way we think about china. we tended to think about china
as a place where we can export, you know, a huge number of bmws and volkswagens, and that tended to be the extent of our strategic thought about china. that has changed, fortunately we are now even adopting papers in the e.u. about china as a systemic rival. not only as a partner, but as a systemic rival. so there's a change in language, there's a change in understanding. but i think most in europe continue to believe that it should be possible on the basis of such principles as reciprocity, that it should be possible to create a level playing field for investment, for intellectual property, for trade, for work on climate, etc., etc. in other words, we are not quite
where the united states is in terms of a more robust confrontational atmosphere. and i think the big, big challenge ahead for the trans-atlantic community is going to create a mechanism that would allow the united states and her european partners to have a very, very intense, ongoing consultative process on how to coordinate on china. and i'm sure if we do this right, we will find a significant number of areas where, actually, we look at things in the same way whether it's human rights or hong kong or the territorial claims in the south china sea, etc. so i can see significant opportunitieses. but defining what that means and what our toolbox should be in
terms of dealing with china including the sanctions question, for example, there will be significant changes between european views and american views. so i think this is going to be a really long-term, serious diplomatic challenge to our leaders on both sides of the atlantic. in a group which i chaired a few months ago together with karen donfried, we proposed that a trans-atlantic commission should be set up to handle this problem. on the american side, we said why not do it at the level of the vice president of the united states. not just the secretary of state or secretary of defense, but, you know, a role that would include all aspects of government-to-government relations. and on the european side, maybe the president or one of the vice
presidents of the european union commission along with very senior representatives of those major countries that have important stakes in dealing with china such as germany. we are, in terms of trade, as you know we have a very, very significant stake in keeping the relationship with china on an even keel. >> that's very interesting. one thing that definitely comes to my mind as i hear that is to think that i would think some countries in asia would like to be represented in that commission as well; japan, australia, even india. for these countries they don't see the u.s -- anything that sounds like a china governance mechanism from which they are excluded sets up problems that then become problems in bilateral relations between the u.s. and those countries.
>> i think this needs to be, such an effort needs to be led by the united states for one very simple reason. we, the european union, are not seen as a significant player by our partners in asia. i mean a player in terms of strategic assessment and strategic action. we are going to be capable of occasionally sending a warship through the asia-pacific waters, but we don't have, of course, in the way the united states does military forces in asia. we don't have treaty commitments or arrangements with countries in the regions like you do with south korea, with what pan and
others. with japan and others. so, clearly, we can only -- we could at best play a complementary role. but i think the effort to organize a policy, a western policy on china, a western approach on china, a coordinated approach on china needs american leadership and very sufficient american leadership. then i'm sure countries like australia and maybe even india and singapore and others would, indeed, be happy to participate. >> yeah, yeah. that's a very interesting idea that the u.s. should be trying to convene some sort of a group of that kind. >> yeah. >> your analysis of the prospects for relations with russia seemed quite pessimistic.
has anything happened to change that assessment? there doesn't seem to be much chance of a reset with a new administration in the u.s. or a change in russia's approach to europe. that was the impression i had from the book. >> well, i would -- let me start with the good news. i think there is at least some hope that we could see a kick start, a restart of arms control discussion. i think that is overdue. i find it regrettable that the trump administration has not, has not been able to agree with russia, for example, to extend the so-called new s.t.a.r.t. treaty. i think this is in even's
interest. so if -- let's assume the biden administration is capable of working with the russians to extend the treaty and maybe provisionally in the beginning and then add some other arms control questions to that, that would at least, that would at least open a possible channel of communication on important areas of security and, hopefully also security cooperation, which we have not had in recent years. let me put it very bluntly. it takes two to tango. from a german point of view, we have always said that we don't want to see a development of our relationship with russia that is
antagonistic. we actually want to express the kind of debt of gratitude that we, that we have vis-a-vis the former soviet union when it actually agreed to the unification of our country in '89, 1990. and, you know, on the 3rd of october of 1990 at the ceremony celebrating german unity, the president of germany at the time gave what i thought was a very thoughtful speech. and one paragraph of that speech was devoted to the soviet union. of course, the soviet union still existed in 1990. and he said now that the wall dividing the two parts of
berlin, now that the wall dividing the two parts of germany, now that the wall that has divided europe is about to disappear, it must be our responsibility to make sure that there will not be a new dividing wall built a thousand kilometers to the east. speaking, of course, of the western border of russia. unfortunately, i have to say that that's exactly what happened. and it's not in our, in my view at least, not our fault. it is the consequence of actions taken by the russian government whether it was in the 2008 military conflict with georgia, whether it was the 2014 events
in ukraine securing the annexation of crimea, etc., etc., etc. but our sense is in berlin we should try to signal to russia that our door is open. if russia at some point in the future recognizes again that its western borders are the safest borders its has because not one nato member harbors any aggressive thoughts about russia. we're not going to attack russia. and we're going to be available as technology providers and technology partners to russia. so i hope that at some point in the future russian leadership would realize again that there is a lot to be said in favor of
a more, of a less confrontational relationship with western europe including with nato. but we have, or again, we have seen very little willing areness by -- willingness by the russian government in recent years to tango, to tango with us. so my thought as a practicing can diplomat is you need strategic patience. you need to wait for the right moment to come. i'm sure it will come at some point. so we'll just have to keep our door open. but at the same time, we need to do everything in order to make sure that we cannot and that no one will think that he could, that we would be vulnerable to extortion or to military pressure. that is why, to return to my early point, that is why we
definitely need a continued strong and credible nato relationship with the united states present if -- in europe. and i think no one understands this better than the former senator joe biden who actually, you know, joe biden actually wrote an anniversary message when the munich security conference celebrated its 50th anniversary five years ago. and in this message he wrote, and i quote from memory, when i first participated in munich in 1980, it was still called the -- [speaking german] we had a different name then. so what this means is your
future president participated in this international security conference 40 years ago, in 1980. and i cannot think of a single leader, western leader or nonwestern leader, in 2021 that could claim that he's been around in international diplomacy, international security for 40 years. the only person who could claim that is queen elizabeth, i guess. but she is not an executive president. so joe biden, i think at least from our point of view brings to the presidency a very deep understanding and knowledge of the evolution of the trans-atlantic relationship, the reason why we think we need nato, the reason why many in the united states believe that nato, to have nato is good, and it's in the interest of the united
states, etc. so we -- i'm not the only one who is hopeful that there will be a number of low hanging fruit which the united states and her european allies can pick in coming months, returning to the climate accords, paris climate accords, for example. at least offering to enter into a discussion with the iranians, that would be another one. starting arms control discussions with the russians, etc. so i think there is, there are enormous opportunities waiting to be seized in coming months. >> i certainly get the impression that that reflects the thinking here too, that early on in the new administration this would be, there would be a real effort to harvest some of that low hanging fruit. >> right. >> you know, one problem that i
do see with sort of u.s./european relations, and maybe it's a larger -- part of a larger u.s. problem, is that when european countries meet and their prime ministers sign agreements, those are seen to have a kind of a legal force, that intergovernmental agreements are binding on successors and so on. and in the u.s. constitutional system, there really is no way that a president can unilaterally legally bind the united states to anything really. and only the treaty ratification process can require his successors to follow that. and so we saw, obviously, with the jcpoa and the climate accords what that can mean when you have prime ministers with different -- presidents with
different points of view succeeding each other. how does one, you know, from the standpoint of american partners who must now go into any negotiation with a biden administration or any american president, a sort of renewed sense of the from jilt of these -- fragility of these agreements, how does that wok i- work in the international context? >> you put your finger on what i think is a painful point. let me, let me speak very bluntly about it. for half a century, europeans have tended to think that we can consider the partnership of the united states, the presence of the united states politically and militarily in europe as a very important leader and partner. we can take that for granted.
and that agreement is an agreement and, sure, it will be respected. the fact president trump was able to walk away from the jcpoa, that he was able to say no to the implementation of the paris climate deal has changed the way europeans think about the reliability of the united states. there is this creeping worry among some really serious german thinkers who say that let's assume we have, you know, like a honeymoon now for the next two, three, even four years with president biden and his team. but what if four years there now -- from now 50,000 voters in arizona or 20,000 in georgia
would turn the united states the other way? creating potentially huge security, political, military and other issues for the trans-atlantic relationship and for our own security. in other words, and one of my german friends has put it bluntly, or he said do we want to make our security dependent on what a bunch of voters in some parts of the united states may wish to say or to do four years from now? so i think there is now a reliability problem that was not there before trump. and i think this is going to be one of the challenges for president biden and his team, to explain to europeans that the united states is, in fact, a reliable partner.
how can this be demonstrated? i am aware that it's very difficult given the current polarization in american politics to get the senate to agree to wager international agreements. but, of course, it would be highly desirable. it would be highly desirable, and from a european point of view -- i don't want to sound political, i want to stay away from american electoral politics, of course. but from the point of view of u.s. reliability as an international actor, it would, of course, be very, very welcome if the senate as the one institution in the congress that has to say yes to a treaty in order to make it stick, it would be great if that senate were of the same, had a majority friendly to the executive branch of government.
the fact that we have not had that recently has been a burden on the reliability and the credibility of the united states. quite clearly. but i understand the constitutional ramifications, and we have, i guess we have to live with it. if i -- i cannot think of a better present though, let me conclude on a positive note, i can't think of a better person than your president-elect to explain to, to walk around european capitols, you know, as a kind of a walking confidence-building measure. [laughter] he himself, i think, will be looked at as somebody who we can trust. so i think if there's anybody around who can mitigate this
particular problem, he's very well quipped to do that. equipped to do that. >> well, that would be -- that's very interesting. and i want to thank you for a conversation that was, i won't say the conversation was as interesting as the book. for one thing, we didn't get into your equestrian-based personal relationship with queen elizabeth. [laughter] and some other things that i think would make people quite interested in the book. >> and my visit, my invitation to mar-a-lago -- [laughter] in 2005. i had no idea that i was being invited by a person who was going to be, a decade later, the president of the united states. diplomacy sometimes offers funny opportunities. >> well, i also see the president-elect has taken your advice about getting a dog -- [laughter] although for him, it has not worked out quite as well yet as it did for you with.
>> exactly. [laughter] >> anyway, it's a great pleasure, it's an honor to have this conversation with you and thank you very much for your time and for the work that you do. >> thank you so much, walter. i have great respect for your work, and i -- let me just express the wish that, hopefully soon, next year we will have opportunities again across the atlantic to meet in person and not only by the telephone or our laptops. you can do a lot via these virtual systems, but, you know, the fundamental business of trust building, which is the essence of diplomacy and international relations, at some point also requires you to sit opposite a table or taking a walk together. it is difficult to achieve
these, these objectives only by a virtual means. so i hope that next year will be a better year than 2020. [laughter] >> so do i and i have to say so far it's looking good. well, thank you very much, and i hope to see you in person before long. >> thank you so much. thank you very much, walter. great, a pleasure to speak to you. stay healthy. thank you very much. >> okay. .. today, brought to you by these television companies who provide booktv to viewers as a public service.