Merkel's slap down of US stance reveals allies' growing rift
US leaders are used to lecturing the world, including their European allies. But when Vice-President Mike Pence tried to do that at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, he was taught a hard lesson that he might not forget for the rest of his life.
After criticizing European leaders for sticking to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and for trying to bypass the US sanctions on Iran, Pence arrogantly demanded in Munich that the European Union and its key members, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, quit the deal.
He also pressed European nations to ban Huawei in their 5G network development and to stop buying arms and energy from Russia. "We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East," Pence said.
However, his "America First" talk was met with a cold shoulder from the audience, as reflected in their silence when Pence was expecting applause. The deafening silence spoke volumes about Europeans' disapproval of many of the policies and practices of the current United States administration despite the many headaches within the EU, from Brexit to rising populism.
I am not sure if Pence listened to the speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which she delivered a sharp critique of US foreign policy.
Her passionate call for win-win cooperation and multilateralism contrasted sharply with Pence's dark worldview, full of hateful, confrontational and Cold War bluster.
Merkel said that Europe had learned a lesson from World War II and Nazi history, and that even though international multilateral forums may be slow or arduous, she was convinced that the US should put itself in the other person's shoes, and try to forge win-win situations rather than trying to solve issues on its own.
To Merkel, the US is pulling the world, especially Europe, back to the Cold War by pulling out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a treaty signed in 1987 between the US and the Soviet Union and regarded as a major step toward ending the Cold War.
Merkel did not hide her outrage when she warned that "for us Europeans the really bad news of this year is the cancellation of the INF Treaty" and "the answer can't lie in a blind race to build more weapons", a reference to Washington's threat "to develop our own military response options" and "to deny Russia any military advantage."
Merkel's words were greeted with a standing ovation from the audience. Many of them were happy to see that a European leader was finally standing up to Washington instead of remaining silent and following it blindly.
It was not a good week for Pence, who traveled to Europe and met his Waterloo while trying to force Europe to take orders from Washington. It was also a debacle for his tireless efforts to defame Huawei and coerce European nations which plan to use Huawei in their 5G networks.
Just two days after his speech, the Financial Times reported that the UK Cyber Security Center concluded that any alleged risk from using Huawei's equipment is manageable.
At the same time, it was a week of waking up for Europe, and many nations around the world, with the realization that they should make their own decisions, instead of being dictated to by Washington as they have been for decades.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.