A lack of strong European leaders has made German Chancellor Angela Merkel into America’s most important partner, say Jackson Janes and Stephen Szabo. Janes, Executive Director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies and an Atlantic Initiative Advisory Board member, describes with AICGS Director of Research Szabo how challenges in implementing domestic reforms have led Merkel to look outward and advocate a “NATO first” approach, giving the alliance priority over EU institutions in the security realm. Merkel’s Germany is also no longer willing to finance EU expansion. Yet Germany continues to maintain an amicable relationship with Russia and to build partnerships in Eastern Europe. The German EU and G-8 presidencies mean that Merkel will continue to steer German and EU foreign policy.