Soft Power, Donald Trump, and the Future of Transatlantic Relations

May 13, 2024 | 6 pm | Bonner Universitätsforum, Heussallee 18-24, 53113 Bonn

Soft power refers to a state’s ability to get desired outcomes in international affairs not through coercion or payments, but through attraction and persuasion. As such, it has long since been considered a key pillar of the United States’ position of global leadership, especially towards its transatlantic allies. Of late—with the presidential election of 2024 drawing closer and a return of Donald Trump to the White House becoming a distinct possibility—there are multiple signs suggesting that America’s soft power is in worrisome decline: Political performance at home and abroad, the condition and resilience of the U.S. democratic and electoral system, and not least the demeanor of leading decision-makers will be vital indicators for U.S. attraction in the eyes of a watching world.  

What lies ahead for U.S. soft power? What are the consequences of a decline in U.S. soft power for an increasingly hostile world? Join Professor Michael Oppenheimer from New York University and Dr. Hendrik W. Ohnesorge from Bonn University to discuss these issues.

Professor Michael F. Oppenheimer, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies in Bonn, leads the International Relations Futures concentration at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs (CGA). He also oversees an ongoing research and consulting project for the UN Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate. He writes and speaks publicly on U.S foreign policy and on the future of international relations. He has had a varied career, beginning with several years with the U.S. government, then in strategic consulting for government policy makers and private firms, and - since 2005 - teaching and research at CGA. His particular specialty is how potential future changes can be incorporated into the foreign policy process, in order to improve foresight and agility. He is credited with expanding the use of scenarios and alternative analyses in the US intelligence estimates process, having worked for the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Professor Oppenheimer is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations

Dr. Hendrik W. Ohnesorge is Managing Director of the Center for Global Studies as well as Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Chair in International Relations at the University of Bonn. He is also a non-resident visiting fellow at NYU's Center for Global Affairs. His research centers on power and power shifts in global politics, with a special focus on soft power, US foreign policy and transatlantic relations, as well as charismatic leadership and individual agency in international affairs. His latest book Soft Power and the Future of US Foreign Policy was published in 2023. Dr. Ohnesorge was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2017 and an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University in 2022.

After the discussion, you are invited to a reception with beverages and light fingerfood.



Welcome remarks

Viktoria Harbecke, Managing Director of the AmerikaHaus NRW e.V.


Prof. Michael F. Oppenheimer, Center for Global Affairs, New York University & Visiting Fellow at CASSIS

Dr. Hendrik W. Ohnesorge, Managing Director of the Center for Global Studies, University of Bonn 


After the discussion, you are invited to a reception with beverages and light fingerfood. 

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