In an interview, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) says what will change for Germany if Joe Biden becomes U.S. president.
Joe Biden heads for a majority. How relieved are you, Mr. Maas?
Heiko Maas: This election has been enormously polarizing. This is also reflected in the election results so far. Many observers predicted that there would be a close outcome, including legal disputes. Therefore: The current situation may be nerve-racking, but it is what democracy is all about in the end: The voters always have the last word. So that the result – which has not yet been determined – is accepted, restraint is required from all at first.
Meuse: Democracy is based on trust in fair and free elections. Democrats must never damage this trust. Now it's a matter of keeping a cool head until an independently determined result is available. We trust in the rule of law in America. Just a reminder: 20 years ago, 537 votes in Florida tipped the scales to win the presidential election. And also this time the outcome stands in many places on a knife edge. In any case, "Victory or abort the election" is a slogan that, in the view of many, contradicts the understanding of a fair election process.
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Do you share the fear that there could be violence on the streets of the United States?
Maas: Decent losers are more important for the functioning of a democracy than brilliant winners. With such close majorities, it is very easy to find oneself on the losing side. This shows how important it is to work on bridging the political divides. The country is politically complex and diverse, as this election has underscored. The less the future president is willing or able to defuse the tone, the more the U.S. will remain preoccupied with itself. America is more than a one-man show. Those who continue to pour oil on the fire in such a situation are themselves acting irresponsibly.
Maas: There will be no departure for the old shores, regardless of the outcome of the election. This is also shown by the close election result, which a future president will – or at least should – take into account. I guess that also means that the U.S. won't be striving back onto the international stage with full energy for the time being. In any case, we must quickly achieve that the West plays as a team again. We cannot afford the luxury of a transatlantic wait-and-see approach to many international crises. To achieve this, we need two things above all: agreements and reliability. The Atlantic itself will become neither narrower nor wider as a result of the election. But we must renew the bridges we have so that they remain resilient to common challenges. We will approach the then elected government with proposals as soon as possible.
Maas: We have used the last few years to continue building a strong and sovereign Europe. Germany has increased defense spending by about half since the Wales summit six years ago. Germany already has the third-largest budget of all NATO partners. However, there are still areas where we Europeans do not have the shoulder height to stand shoulder to shoulder on an equal footing, as we know. We stand by the resolutions because it is in our own interest to do so.