And then there was one. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has emerged as the last powerful defender of Europe and the trans-Atlantic alliance after the election of Donald J. Trump. But after 11 years in power, she is tired, her associates say, and under siege seemingly from all directions. She is under pressure from the same forces that elevated Mr. Trump in America, fueled Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and are now propelling the populist Marine Le Pen in France. At home, the hard-right Alternative for Germany party has scored a string of victories in state elections. Ms. Merkel needs to fend off a resurgent Russia that is promoting its brand of illiberal democracy by backing right-wing parties throughout the Continent and fanning the flames of populism. But with Mr. Trump openly admiring Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, even maintaining economic sanctions imposed on Moscow over conflicts in Crimea and Ukraine will be a challenge. “Never before has so much ridden on the Germans,” said Simon Tilford, the deputy director of the Center for European Reform in London. “We’re very fortunate that Germany is led now by Merkel, because there is a chance she will step up and do what Europe needs her to do.”
An increasingly divided Europe is looking to Germany, its richest power, to cope with its many problems, some of them longstanding: low growth, a continuing stream of refugees, and increasingly angry and nationalistic electorates.
Italy and Spain are politically fragile, Austria might elect a hard-right president next month, and Ms. Merkel faces difficult negotiations with Britain over its so-called Brexit. And with Mr. Trump advocating “America First” and questioning the value of the NATO alliance, there is pressure on Germany to take a greater role in European security — always a delicate matter.
For the last eight years, Ms. Merkel could count on the steadfast backing of President Obama and France’s Élysée Palace. But with the ascent of Mr. Trump and the deep unpopularity of President Franςois Hollande, she has lost that vital backing.