Heilbrunn: But Bolton’s idee fixe, and Trump’s “America First” rhetoric, would suggest that this is fully consonant with their vision of American foreign policy—of an unfettered, unilateralist power that has no permanent alliances anywhere in the world and can act as it wishes, wherever and whenever it pleases, to stop someone it deems an adversary. Isn’t that really the Dick Cheney view of the world? Bolton and Trump essentially are not isolationists; they’re unilateralists.
Burt: I agree very much that they are unilateralists. And the United States always has to retain the capability to act unilaterally if necessary. But in an era when Chinese power is growing, and the Russians are resurgent, and there are other powers emerging in the international landscape, I think that the United States needs allies and partners more than ever before. It is the one key advantage we have over both the Russians and the Chinese. So this strategy of unilateralism, in my judgment, does not reflect a clear understanding of what our interests are in what is emerging as a truly multipolar system. On the one hand, we can't be a liberal hegemon as we tried to be after the Cold War; we don't have that capability. On the other hand, to move to the other end of the spectrum and be completely unilateralist also creates a new range of very serious risks...
Burt: Well, Trump either consciously or unconsciously seems to have declared war on Germany. The Germans don’t have the advantage of having their own small nuclear deterrent as does Britain and France; it is more dependent on the U.S. nuclear guarantee than they are. And Germany finds itself attacked by this administration in terms of trade policies, in terms of its defense spending, in terms of its purchases of energy from Russia, and now with the INF treaty. The real question is: has the fundamental foundation of German security policy been undermined? This should trigger a real crisis of Germany thinking about their security options. Now it is interesting to think about how they’ll react. Will they look to the European Union and the embryonic efforts there to build a kind of European defense and security pillar? Will they look to create a new, closer relationship with the Russians which has always been a kind of romantic dream of the German left? Will they try to establish themselves—as current German public opinion would like to do—to try and identify themselves as just a bigger version of Switzerland. That, in my view, is unsustainable. They will have to make a choice.
Heilbrunn: There’s another option though. Part of the political spectrum of the country is moving to the right.
Heilbrunn: And part of it is moving to the left.
Burt: Correct. You are beginning to see some of the same kind of polarization you’ve seen in other parts of Europe and the United States.
Heilbrunn: There’s talk of building a German atomic bomb.
Burt: I know there is. And I’ve spoken to some people who are at least participating, or beginning to participate in that debate. I don't think it would be a truly independent German deterrent. The Germans would seek to somehow multi-lateralize that capability.
Heilbrunn: With the French.
Burt: Maybe with the French. The British as well. The Germans do have nuclear weapons on their territory and nuclear-capable aircraft. They operate as members of the NATO nuclear planning group. So the Germans in some ways, while not an independent nuclear power, are part of the NATO nuclear structure. But since NATO is an American operation, that will not be viewed, in my judgment, as sufficient going forward. There will have to be a European umbrella of some sort to give the Germans greater confidence in their security and the future..."