Monday, May 29, 2017

Putin Couldn't Have a Better Ally

In just four months, Donald Trump has done more for Vlad Putin than the Russian strongman has managed to accomplish in years of scheming and struggle.

It must have been music to the Kremlin's electronic ears over the weekend as the leader of the free world, Germany's Angela Merkel, stated the obvious - America is no longer Europe's reliable partner. Europe now needs to go its own way. The pact that has held Europe and America together for 70-years has come unglued.

Even before Trump was inaugurated, Merkel voiced her reservations about the president-elect.

The opening line in Der Spiegel says it all: "Doubts are growing inside Angela Merkel's Chancellery that the incoming American president will mature and become a statesman. The chancellor is preparing for frosty trans-Atlantic relations while at the same time trying to pull Europe together."

Think about that. Angela Merkel doubts that a 70-year old man "will mature and become a statesman." Hmm. If he's not mature at 70 it sounds like a safe bet that he won't become mature later on.

The hour-long video didn't exactly put the German chancellor in a cheerful mood. The footage was from Donald Trump's recent appearance in Pennsylvania during his so-called Thank You Tour and Angela Merkel, as she told the national executive committee of her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), watched the rally in its entirety. She recommended that her fellow party members do the same. "It is interesting to see the thought environment he inhabits," she said.

Trump retaliated by giving Merkel the cold shoulder when she made her mandatory pilgrimage to the White House in March. She seems to have gotten her fill of the grandiose boor last week as Trump lectured first the NATO leaders and then the G7 summit.

Reaction to Merkel's latest assessment was predictably quick in coming.

Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haas, a veteran US diplomat, described Merkel's comments as a "watershed" in relations between the two allies. "(It's) what the US has sought to avoid since World War II," said Haas.

But Trump's supporters have taken Merkel's comments as a sign of the president's success. Bill Mitchell, a conservative commentator dubbed Trump's "most unrelenting social media surrogate" by US media, took the opportunity to lampoon Merkel.

"Merkel, hero of the left and train wreck of Europe says, 'she cannot rely upon Donald Trump.' Awesome. He opposes your raging stupidity," Mitchell said in a tweet.


David Frum, senior editor of the US news magazine The Atlantic, said that Trump's behavior as caused a rift between Germany and the US has effectively served Russian interests.

"Since 1945, the supreme strategic goal in Europe of the USSR and then Russia was the severing of the US-German alliance. Trump delivered," Frum said.

Agreeing with Frum's comments on its benefits for Moscow, Ian Bremmer, founder and director of the consultancy Eurasia Group, said that the "most important postwar relationship," the transatlantic alliance, is "now unraveling."

"There's not been a statement like this from Germany in generations," Bremmer said.

When it comes to the American president and his aides, stupidity and ignorance are never in short supply. From Der Spiegel:

U.S. President Donald Trump voiced significant displeasure over Germany's trade surplus on Thursday during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels. "The Germans are bad, very bad," Trump said, according to meeting participants.

According to a report in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, many EU officials were appalled by how little the Americans appeared to know about trade policy. The guests from Washington seemed not to be aware that EU member states only negotiate trade treaties as a bloc. According to the paper, Trump's chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, claimed during meetings, for example, that different customs tariffs are in place between the U.S. and Germany than between the U.S. and Belgium.

For years, Germany has exported more than it imports and Trump has criticized the country's trade surplus before - in an interview with the German tabloid Bild prior to his inauguration, for example. In that interview, too, he voiced particular frustration at the number of German cars he sees on the streets of New York. "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the U.S. without a 35 percent tax, it's not gonna happen. It's not gonna happen." It was a clear threat to slap punitive tariffs on German automobiles.

It's fair to say that the editors of Der Spiegel don't think better of Trump than Germany's chancellor as the magazine's recent editorial, "It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump," made plain.

Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.

The fact is that every nation, whether America's friend or adversary, is affected by the schism opening between the cornerstone of modern Europe, Germany, and the United States.

The Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, has high praise for chancellor Merkel.

Angela Merkel – or “leader of the free world” as she is now to be known – did not wait long to see the back of Donald Trump before she made it clear that things have changed. She told a rally of 2,500 people in Munich ...that the EU must now be prepared to look after itself, that it could no longer depend on the UK or America. “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over … I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans have to take fate into our own hands.”

This is a truly dramatic statement from a leader who doesn’t do drama. She is not going to be holding Trump’s hand any time soon. He may be relieved to hear that, but then the underestimation of Merkel as a dowdy physicist has often allowed her to run rings around egotistical male leaders.

Watching her at the G7, her statesmanship, her ease, her ability to broker deals and relationships is ever more impressive. More and more I hear people say they that they like her. Even those on the left respect her though she is a centrist. While Trump shambled around Europe with his goon display of ignorance of other languages, cultures or even basic manners, Merkel was in her element. While he was trailing behind in a golf cart as he lacked the stamina to actually walk anywhere at all, she strode out with the other leaders.

And look where she is now, unlike our prime minister, able to oppose Trump directly and to say his America is not a friend of Europe.

What an extraordinary woman. There are no problems, she says, only “tasks” to be solved, as she sits rapidly texting in meetings. Refusing to see herself as a female leader, she prefers to think of herself as part of a class of political heavyweights. Increasingly she is in a class of her own and watching her, one thought comes to mind: this is what strong and stable actually looks like.


Anonymous said...

Anyong...German news magazine rips Trump, calling him 'unfit' and 'a danger to the world'
May 26, 2017 10:55am EDT by Jen Hayden

The Mound of Sound said...

Anyong, I suspect you didn't read this post. The Spiegel editorial you reference is quoted in the piece.

Purple library guy said...

If Trump actually causes the unravelling of NATO he will have, unwillingly and unwittingly, done the world a great service. Still got my popcorn.

As to Angela Merkel, she's much like Barack Obama: Intelligent, personable, in some ways no doubt well meaning, and willing to see the world ruined following the standard ideological line. She is certainly more responsible than any other single person for the economic debacle of Europe for the past 10 years, and hence in turn for the rise of European fascism and fascism-lite. Her benevolent stance in accepting many refugees to Germany is excellent (although the point is probably to put downward wage pressure on Germans); but she would never question the imperialism that slaughtered millions and created all those refugees in the first place. Ask a Greek what they think of Merkel . . . She is no doubt the most able and goodhearted statesperson today backing the insane ideology which is pushing the world over the edge. Trump on the other hand is possibly the least able or goodhearted statesperson backing that same ideology. In terms of results, there's less to choose between them than that gulf in personal qualities would imply.

Dana said...

PLG is a purveyor of chaos.

The Mound of Sound said...

He certainly contributes a fresh perspective, Dana. Sometimes it's good to see the world through other eyes. To his credit, PLG is totally open as to his at times anarchist stance. I piss him off at times. Other times he pisses me off. Most of the time we can disagree without being disagreeable and that's good enough for me.

Dana said...

He's certainly easier to read than the majority and that at least is a pleasure.

I'm not very happy with the condition of the world and the biologicals trying to survive on it either but I'm pretty sure that reverting to unstructured chaos isn't going to improve anything for anyone.

He brings to mind Steve Bannon sometimes frankly.

The Mound of Sound said...

"He brings to mind Steve Bannon sometimes frankly." Bannon certainly has anarchist leanings, Dana. I think I'll leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

No need to invoke Putin or Drumpf.

The useful idiots a.k.a. Europeans just woke to the fact that Uncle Sam was ALWAYS using them as just a tool to further his OWN interests. At the expense of Europeans of course.
United Europe was the SOLE competitor to the global domination of the Empire and had to be partially crippled...

Purple library guy said...

Dana, if you have an argument, make it. If you're just a coward smear-artist, well, you can leave those posts to speak for you I guess.

Dana said...

I have neither argument nor time for you as both would be a waste.

Purple library guy said...

Of course. Making genuine points is a waste of time, but nasty ad hominem is not. I think you've made yourself clear.

Mound, while it's certainly true that I have social anarchist leanings, my assessment above doesn't really depend on those. That the European variant of neoliberal austerity has been a disaster is hardly a secret; realizing that alternative policies which up until recently were mainstream would have been far better requires only a smattering of Keynesianism. Germany has been the strongest force in the EU for some time and the key driver of those austerity policies, and Angela Merkel has been the boss of Germany through most of the financial crisis and its aftermath. That would make her, as I say, "more responsible than any other single person for the economic debacle of Europe for the past 10 years". One can talk about people like Schauble who are more obviously predatory, but he's in her cabinet; the buck doesn't stop with him.

As to imperialism, all one has to do is look at the catalogue of NATO aggression over the last while to realize that the key driver of instability, refugee crises and simple mass death in the world over the last 20+ years has been the United States and its allies. Look at the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and Yeman and so on, and the widening shockwaves of instability radiating from them. Nobody else and no other factor (so far not even global warming itself) comes close. None of this is a secret that only radicals get to find out about, neither are the facts themselves controversial. One can be capitalist through and through and still, if one has a bit of moral courage, confront those facts and begin to think about their implications. It doesn't make her exceptional among statespeople, but Angela Merkel has been on board with all of that; like the rest, she reaches high office precisely because she's the kind of person who can go along (with crimes against humanity) to get along. Maybe she's actually unhappy about it; maybe she secretly wishes she had the guts of a Jeremy Corbyn. But she doesn't.

Overall, as with Obama or for that matter Trudeau, I'm just ultimately not willing to accept horrible results because the purveyor seems competent, civilized and mild-mannered.

Anonymous said...

PLG said: "Angela Merkel has been on board with all of that"

Yup. Licking the boots of an Uncle. But, what goes around comes around. Million migrants in Germany, courtesy of... the Uncle! Karma...