Trump's World Order Merkel Anticipates Frosty Relations with U.S.

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. By SPIEGEL Staff

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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.

During his speech, Trump celebrated a landslide victory that was anything but; he blasted the press ("the world's most dishonest people") and in no way left the impression that he has matured into a statesman following his election win. But one passage really stood out in Merkel's memory and she quoted it verbatim: "There is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, a global flag. We salute one flag, and that is the American flag."

Merkel described Trump's speech as "culturally interesting," saying that it indicated the political direction the president-elect might take. Trump, she said, has announced plans for massive tax cuts and added that his primary focus is America first. Merkel made her comments in a calm tone of voice, but the extent of her concern was clear to all who attended the pre-Christmas meeting: She is preparing for the worst.

Merkel Critical of Trump

Merkel largely refrained from public comment during the US election campaign and she considered it a mistake when Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly described the Republican candidate as a "hate preacher." That doesn't, however, mean that she doesn't share his opinion.

Internally, she makes no secret of what she thinks about Trump's campaign. No other presidential candidate in the history of the United States has ever violated the rules of decency to the degree that Trump has. That's how Merkel sees it. That helps explain why, in a brief statement given to the press following his Nov. 9 election, she held the kind of moral sermon that no previous German chancellor had ever delivered to a US president.

She said that "Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for law." She then offered close cooperation with the next president on the "basis of these values." It was the language of a parole officer trying to get her charge back on the right track. Merkel didn't just say this publicly -- she also repeated it during an hour-long telephone conversation with Trump on Nov. 11. The future president remained friendly, but was apparently thoroughly unimpressed.

Trump Is No Second Coming of Ronald Reagan

The more optimistic minds in the Chancellery still held the view in the days following Trump's election that the real estate tycoon could become a second Ronald Reagan. Reagan too showed a weakness for crudity. The moment in August 1984 remains memorable -- when, during a sound check prior to his weekly radio address, he jokingly said: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The recording was eventually leaked. By the end of his two terms in office in January 1989, however, Reagan had come to be seen as a leader who had led the US to several years of prosperity.

More recently, though, Merkel's Chancellery staff is coming to the realization that comparisons between Reagan and Trump aren't entirely accurate. Reagan didn't chart a collision course with his own party. And before entering the White House, he had spent eight years as the governor of California, a state that is larger than Germany and has a population of around 40 million people.

Every American presidential candidate must pursue methods during the election campaign that aren't ethically immaculate. But no one has stretched them as far as Donald Trump, and he is showing no intention of changing the style that resulted in him winning the Republican nomination and, ultimately, the presidency.

Merkel and her advisors were shocked that Trump refused to abandon his Twitter account, even after his Nov. 9 victory. How he, in all seriousness, suggested to British Prime Minister Theresa May that she should appoint Brexit populist Nigel Farage, one of her worst political adversaries, as her country's ambassador to Washington. Before then turning his attention to late-night television, issuing grades to actors who spoofed him on "Saturday Night Live." ("Not funny ... Sad.")

It's not Trump's ideology that worries Merkel most. His opinions, after all, morph quickly, something that Merkel has experienced personally. As recently as August 2015, he said the German chancellor was "probably the greatest leader in the world today." Then the refugee crisis came and Trump said, "What she's done in Germany is insane. It's insane."

It's Trump's character that worries Merkel most, his craving to be loved and admired and his fury against all those who refuse to do so. Merkel has been in office for 11 years and she knows very well just how unstable the world order has become. "Many have the feeling that the world has been turned upside down," she said at the CDU's annual party conference at the beginning of December. It was a tone that one seldom hears from Angela Merkel.

A New Berlusconi?

There is, of course, an element of self-interest in her words given that Merkel stands to profit during her re-election campaign this year if Germans see her as the last bastion of stability in a world gone mad. But there was more to it than that.

It was only with considerable effort that the international community managed to persuade China to sign the global climate agreement. How is that agreement going to take root in an environment where the U.S. president considers global warming to be the invention of a few crazed environmentalists?

The nuclear deal with Iran was one of the few diplomatic successes seen in recent years. Now Trump is pining for the days when Iran's economy was "choked" by sanctions, as he puts it. And what will happen with Ukraine if Trump sees sanctions merely as an unnecessary provocation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin?

Merkel is no amateur when it comes to dealing with difficult men. In 2002, Edmund Stoiber, who at the time was head of the powerful Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's CDU, snatched the chancellor candidacy away from her. In 2007, Vladimir Putin took great pleasure in Merkel's angst-ridden face when his Labrador crept up to the dog-shy chancellor's feet. Sources in the Chancellery say the most accurate Trump comparison is former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- a man who, even at his advanced age, tolerates no doubts about his virility and, like Trump, doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about manners.

At a 2009 NATO summit in the city of Kehl, Germany, Berlusconi made hostess Merkel wait on the red carpet as he took his sweet time to finish a call on his mobile phone. That same year, a phone conversation conducted by Berlusconi was leaked in which he made extremely impolite comments about Merkel's figure.

But Merkel has a knack for dealing with a somewhat cocky charm. Within her party, people like to share an anecdote about how Berlusconi actually did fall into line in crunch time, as he did during climate negotiations. "Angela," he then asked, "is today the day I have to give in?"

Merkel Knows Little About Trump Administration

Will Trump ultimately fall into line? Merkel's problem is that she knows very little about the real estate mogul and his new administration. During the election campaign, there was only sporadic contact between the German government and Trump's people, which was also a product of the fact that few in Berlin believed the Republican candidate would actually win.

In April, Steinmeier's state secretary Markus Ederer met with former Air Force colonel Sam Clovis. The Iowa Republican sought to ease the German's concern about a possible Trump victory. But whenever Ederer probed deeper, Clovis was unable to provide satisfactory answers. Germany's Ambassador to Washington, Peter Wittig, had a similar experience when he met with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in spring 2016. Steinmeier even made several telephone calls to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, "but even he couldn't help us," the foreign minister told the German parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee the day after the election.

Since then, the German government has sought to intensify its contacts with the Trump camp. In early December, Andreas Michaelis, the director of the Foreign Ministry, and Thomas Bagger, the head of the ministry's Planning Staff, traveled to the United States. And in mid-December, the chancellor dispatched her foreign policy advisor, Christoph Heusgen, to New York.

It's Merkel's belief that Trump is only impressed by strength. She found it appalling to watch former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney beg Trump for the secretary of state as though he were a candidate on some TV talent show even though, during the campaign, he had described Trump as a "phony" and "fraud" whose "promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University." In the end, Romney lost more than just the casting show -- he also lost his dignity.

Merkel also had trouble understanding why Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was unable to wait to set up an appointment with Trump, instead flying to New York only nine days after his election in order to ensure his good graces.

Discuss this issue with other readers!
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Page 1 01/04/2017
1. Merkel anticipates frosty relations with US...
I assume that Spiegel accurately represents the position of Chancellor Merkel. On that basis, I must also assume that frosty times for Germany lie ahead. And in whose favor is that?? Germany should expect that the German Government will do all to build/maintain friendly relations based on common interests and gain/benefit. Instead of belaboring the potential difficulties, and this also publicly, it might well be better for Chancellor Merkel to look for and find possible solutions to "imaginary issues" yet unspecified. On the other hand, I think Pres.-Elect Trump will not have any sleepless hours over German Govt's concerns. Let's grow up and deal with the cards as dealt. Pres. Trump will be on the scene for the next 4 years, or even longer.
Cal_105 01/04/2017
2. Merkel living in a dream world
Merkel appears to be living in a unrealistic dream world. A world that no longer exists. While Germany is in a cultural war with Islam with its values and traditions at risk, she appears to believe that the US is Germany's real adversity. She seems to think she can fight Islam with a smile and a kind hand and controlling the actions of her own people. She appears to be more concerned with the actions of Germans, than the immigrants, many of who want to impose Islam in Europe. She manifests no understanding of the changed political situation in the US. The left is no longer in charge in the US. I can understand she is sad about losing the left but she needs to try to live in the real world under real circumstances. Is she wants to tune out then she may find herself fighting Islam alone.
wolfgangmunster_schnozle 01/05/2017
Merkel has caused huge damage to Germany and insulting Trump, does not in my books lead to better relations. This blunderbuss has to go.
titus_norberto 01/05/2017
4. Indeed, it is the end of the ERA AQUARIUS
Many people including me have been criticizing the accuracy impartiality and even the morality of the so called Western press (see the "History of Reuter's" by David Read, for example) and perhaps we can go as far as pre TV times if we remember the warning issued by Vance Packard in the 50's as a result of a de facto but hidden relationship between TV owners and politicians (Richard Nixon's campaigns for the California's Governorship and two US presidential campaigns): "TV might destroy our DEMOCRACY". Indeed, TV and mass media working in unison have rendered remarkably consistent results on a worldwide basis, accumulation of capital and assets in few hands, the creation of an invisible but effective political CORPS extending across parties and even ideological boundaries, some people call it the "ESTABLISHMENT", others the "Washington Club" and others "The Guild" in reference of the Medieval guilds preventing non enfranchised people providing specific services or products within their areas of competency, but alas, in this case is no lesser object than the GOVERNMENT of all, including, to a small or greater extent, foreign citizens. Well, this CORPS combined with the mass media establishment has been defeated by Trump triggering fears that their DECADES CONSISTENT POLICIES could go into DISARRAY; this alone explains the current FUSS ABOUT IT.
Newspeak 01/05/2017
5. ...
I don't know, why journalists speculate about the Trump-Merkel relation, when it is possible, that Merkel loses this year's electoral campaign. It is also not evident to me, why Merkel should be the best choice for the rescue of the Eurozone, when everything she did before has only contributed to its decay. I would prefer, if journalists start to think again for themselves and perform their own analyses, instead of jumping on the bandwagon of opportunistic reporting or simply taking any arguments from politicians without own filtering or judgement.
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