German politicians of all stripes lined up to express their shock at Republican Donald Trump's win in the US presidential election. But few seemed to know what it meant for transatlantic relations.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen put a brave face on as she offered her comments on Donald Trump's win in the US presidential election, describing it as a "heavy shock," before speculating on the future of NATO.
"Of course, we Europeans know as NATO partners that Donald Trump will ask himself what we are contributing to the alliance," the conservative member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told the public TV network ARD. "But we will also be asking, what is your position on the alliance. Many questions are open. A responsible and open America is in our interests.
"I also think that Donald Trump knows that this wasn't an election for him, but against Washington, against the establishment," von der Leyen added.
As if in response to German anxieties, US diplomats offered reassurance.
"There is no question that Germany is still our indispensable partner," the US Ambassador to Germany John Emerson told DW.
Member of the CDU's coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), were similarly uncertain about what the result meant. "With Mr. Trump we really don't know what we're facing," SPD foreign policy spokesman Niels Annen told the ZDF broadcaster.
"The world won't end, it just keeps getting crazier," tweeted SPD Justice Minister Heiko Maas.
'Not particularly well-educated'
Opposition politicians described the Republican victory in more drastic terms. As the results began tipping in Trump's favor, Green party leader Cem Özdemir called the possibility of his presidency a "break with the tradition that the West stands for liberal values," and he warned that the United States could turn its back on the rest of the world.
Meanwhile Left party chairman Bernd Riexinger struck a fatalistic tone: "He won't be able to offer anything at all to the people who he's promised all kinds of things." The Left party's popular former leader Gregor Gysi was typically candid when he offered his opinion of the president-elect to Deutschlandfunk radio: "He's a simple soul, not particularly well-educated, he's coarse," he said. "We've never had anything like this in this form as president of the United States, even though there have been what I would consider bad presidents before. I think this will give right-wing populism a new boost in Europe."
As if to confirm Gysi's fears, it soon emerged that the only major German party to welcome Trump's victory outright was the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). Deputy party leader Beatrix von Storch was quick to draw parallels with the European political situation. "The victory of Donald Trump is a signal that the citizens of the Western world want a clear political change," she wrote on her Facebook page.
Her party colleague Marcus Pretzell took to Twitter to ask for more "optimism" and less "fearmongering" from the German media - and reached for a quote from Romantic-era German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to sum up the moment: "From here and today a new epoch of world history will begin, and you can say you were there."