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Germans Hope A Biden Win Would Boost Relations With The U.S.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And people are following the U.S. election in other parts of the world as well, including in Germany, where there's talk of how a win for Vice President Joe Biden would greatly benefit the ailing trans-Atlantic relationship. But some are cautious about that. Esme Nicholson has the story.

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GAYLE TUFTS: (Singing) Hey, U.S.A., you were my home. Now you're a dangerous zone - too many guns, way too much hate - (singing in German)...

ESME NICHOLSON, BYLINE: Political cabaret has a long tradition here in Berlin, and one of the city's favorite artists happens to be an American. Gayle Tufts performs in Denglish, a mashup of English and German. Her shows play on the cultural differences between Americans and Germans. But since 2016, they've become much more political.

TUFTS: I think in the world that we live in now, it is unavoidable to talk about politics. Everything is politics.

NICHOLSON: Right now, Tufts is spending a lot of her time on news shows, whose hosts call on her to make sense of the U.S. election and to explain the difference between Germany's consensus-based coalition politics and America's adversarial two-party system.

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TUFTS: (Through interpreter) Biden telling Trump to shut up is not political discourse as here in Germany. And frankly, I find myself asking whether we'd all be better off if Germany's president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, were in the Oval Office.

NICHOLSON: Germany's political establishment makes no bones about the damage that four years of President Trump's "America First" foreign policy has done to German-U.S. relations. Some are equally candid about rooting for Joe Biden. Norbert Roettgen is the chair of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee and a candidate in the leadership race to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel.

NORBERT ROETTGEN: (Through interpreter) This election is a referendum on Trump. It's not really about Biden, although he does have a first-class political team whom we know very well. Everyone involved in foreign policy here in Berlin is on personal terms with Biden's people.

NICHOLSON: Roettgen says the German government has found communicating with Washington over the past four years a challenge. And, indeed, Trump's tone jars with a country whose own leader doesn't even have a Twitter account.

JANA PUGLIERIN: It feels like we are the one ally that President Trump likes the least, and we are singled out all the time and get a lot of criticism and blame.

NICHOLSON: Jana Puglierin is the head of the European Council of Foreign Relations in Berlin.

PUGLIERIN: The Germans, in the beginning, tried to establish some sort of relationship, and they managed with the - General Mattis or McMaster. These were the persons that one could establish a relationship with. But the more these people left the administration, the more difficult it became for the Germans.

NICHOLSON: It's worth remembering that the substance of Trump's criticism isn't that different from that of previous U.S. administrations. The Obama administration also urged Germany to meet its NATO spending target of 2% of GDP, and it also wanted Berlin to reconsider Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline project between Germany and Russia. And although a number of lawmakers in Berlin actually agree with Washington on some of these issues, Puglierin says they'd rather address them with Biden than with Trump.

PUGLIERIN: Joe Biden has already announced that he would rejoin the Paris climate agreement, would seek a deal with Iran. And he has said that, to him, allies matter a lot and that he would place the United States at the top of the table of multilateral discussions. And that's what the Germans particularly are looking for.

NICHOLSON: But politicians here also realize that a Biden administration will probably focus more on Asia than on its old allies in Europe. They say Germany should see the Trump years as a wake-up call to develop a more independent foreign policy that is less reliant on who occupies the White House.

For NPR News, I'm Esme Nicholson in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEST PESSIMIST'S "OCEANICA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.