For decades, the rest of the world wondered who to call when they needed to speak to Europe. Since Angela Merkel became the continent’s dominant politician and Germany asserted itself as its superpower, that question no longer applies.
In 2015, Merkel faces the pivotal year of her reign as “Queen of Europe.”
When Ronald Reagan courted Europe’s leaders 30 years ago, urging them to stand firm against the USSR, things were more complicated. Britain, France and West Germany were equally significant – and divided on the ‘Soviet question’ – so a balancing act was required. Margaret Thatcher was rabidly anti-Communist and needed little coaxing to Washington’s worldview. On the other hand, Helmut Kohl managed a Bonn government still in touch with ‘Ostpolitik’ and Francois Mitterrand’s socialist administration was largely ambiguous in its intentions.
Today, for Barack Obama, it’s much simpler. The US President need only recognize one top-dog – Angela Merkel’s Germany. While paying lip-service to London and occasionally massaging French egos, it’s apparent that the White House has effectively delegated responsibility for Europe to Berlin.