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Donald Trump’s and Angela Merkel’s unhappy summit

A summit meeting intended to create bridges between the leaders of the US and Germany merely highlighted their differences.

Alexander Mercouris

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As she gears up to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – the self-styled “Queen of Europe’ – has concluded a trip to Washington where she had her first meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Merkel previously had a very close relationship with Donald Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and was widely seen as Obama’s most important foreign policy ally. Given the critical importance of relations with the US for Germany, there is no doubt this close relationship with Obama gave Merkel considerable political standing in Germany and played a key role in securing her position.  The political and perhaps psychological importance of this relationship for Merkel is shown by the way Merkel repeatedly sacrificed other relationships and policy positions in order to preserve it.

Thus in 2014 Merkel reversed the longstanding German policy of maintaining close political and commercial relations with Russia by imposing sanctions on Russia during the Ukrainian crisis that year, and in 2015 she backed away from a plan proposed by her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble to eject Greece from the eurozone to which she had previously appeared to lend support.  On both occasions she did this in order to fall into line with Obama’s wishes.

Angela Merkel undoubtedly anticipated that she would be able to forge a similarly strong relationship with Hillary Clinton – a personal friend – once Hillary Clinton had been elected US President.

The election as US President of Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton therefore came as a shock, and Merkel has struggled to come up with a coherent response.

In doing so she has not been helped by absurd suggestions from Donald Trump’s opponents in the US and Europe that following Donald Trump’s election victory she is now the “leader of the free world”, or by the equally misconceived attempt by Barack Obama following the election to enlist her as the guardian of his legacy.  As Merkel undoubtedly knows, she lacks the power to do either of these things, and the attempts of others to position her into doing them risk making her relationship with Trump even more fraught than it already is.

Her meeting with Trump in Washington was therefore an attempt to build bridges to the new US President and to try to forge a working relationship with him, even if Merkel undoubtedly knows that this can never be as close as the one she had with Obama.

In the event the meeting can hardly have satisfied her.  Instead of building bridges what it showed was the colossal gulf between her and Donald Trump.

Many have spoken of the uneasy body-language and mood of the summit, and much has been made (far too much in my opinion) of Donald Trump’s failure to shake hands with her (for the record I get the impression that Trump is one of those people who simply doesn’t like shaking hands, and nothing should therefore be read into this).

A more useful insight into the lack of mutual understanding between Trump and Merkel is what the two had to say at their joint news conference, of which the official text can be found here

Firstly, it is impossible to avoid noticing the sharp contrast in styles.

As is his way Trump was spontaneous and exuberant, ranging widely over many topics in his usual uninhibited way.  Merkel, who like Obama always picks her words carefully and gives away as little as she can whilst peppering her comments with clichés, was clearly uncomfortable with this.

Beyond that however were the clear disagreements on issues of substance.  These were so great that at one point Merkel was even forced to admit them and say that she was in Washington to defend German interests and to look for compromises

Well, I’m here as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. I represent German interests.  I speak with the President of the United States, who stands up for, as is right, American interests.  That is our task, respectively.  And I must say that I was very gratified to know the very warm and gracious hospitality with which I have been received here.

We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but to try to bring people together, try to show what is our vantage point, what is the American vantage point, and then try to find a compromise which is good for both sides.  Because we need to be fair with each other.  Each and every one is expecting for his or her leader that something good comes out of it for their own people.

For Germany, I can say, well, people are different.  People have different abilities, have different traits of character, have different origins, have found their way into politics along different pathways.  All that is diversity, which is good.  Sometimes it’s difficult to find compromises, but that’s what we’ve been elected for.  If everything just went like that and without problem, we wouldn’t need politicians to do these jobs.

This is very far from the sort of things that Merkel and Obama would say following Merkel’s meetings with Obama, when she and Obama liked to stress the US and Germany’s commonality of views and interests, not their differences and disagreements with each other.

There was also no word at any point in the news conference of any actual agreement being concluded between the two leaders.  Whilst this is not unprecedented, it is usually the case following a meeting between two leaders who are close partners and friends that they announce some agreement or at least some joint initiative, however minimal, in order to conclude the meeting with something positive.  Not only did that not happen on this occasion, but there is no evidence in anything Donald Trump said that he was interested in any such thing or was looking for it.

In fact Trump repeatedly said things during the press conference that would have been guaranteed to make Merkel worried and uncomfortable.

Firstly, as is his way, Trump qualified his (very cursory) support for NATO by presenting Merkel again with a demand for money

I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense.  Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States.  These nations must pay what they owe.

In order to leave no room for ambiguity that one of the “nations” Trump was referring to is Germany, after the summit Trump followed up this comment with a tweet (see here and here)

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

This repeated demand for money, which has become the common refrain coming from all the officials of the Trump administration including Vice-President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson, and not just Donald Trump himself, is making NATO appear less and less like an alliance based on common values and interests, and more and more like a protection racket.

Perhaps that in truth is what NATO has been all along.  The Germans and the US’s other NATO allies do not however like to have it spelled out quite so frankly.  Merkel is known to be personally offended by it.

Whilst Trump spoke about NATO in this frankly rather threatening – even Godfatherish – way, he had absolutely nothing to say about the EU.  He has previously made no secret of his disdain for the EU.  Whilst hosting the ‘Queen of Europe’ he backed off from none of it.  Instead of uttering some word of support for the EU, however qualified, he never once mentioned it.  Merkel will have noticed, and in light of the Brexit crisis and the challenges she is now facing all across Europe, she now knows she no longer has the US President’s support, and it will cause her concern.

On relations with Russia, where some claim to see signs that Donald Trump is backing off from his desire for detente with Russia (for the record, I don’t), and on the related question of Ukraine, Trump spoke not a word of condemnation for Russia’s actions or of support for Ukraine.  His words could scarcely have been more terse or less interested, and again make a startling contrast to what Obama in an identical situation would have said

I also appreciate Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, along with the French President, to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, where we ideally seek a peaceful solution.

On this issue Merkel clearly took the hint, which Trump may have spelled out to her more clearly when they met in private, that Trump wants detente with Russia and does not want the conflict in Ukraine to stand in the way of this, though her choice of words in response were carefully ambiguous and were clearly intended to give her political space

I am very gratified to know that the American administration and also the President, personally, commits himself to the Minsk process.  We need to come to a solution of this problem.  There has to be a safe and secure solution for Ukraine, but the relationship with Russia has to be improved, as well, once the situation there on the ground is clarified.

Minsk is a good basis, but, unfortunately, we haven’t made yet the headway that we want to.  But we are going to work together with our experts in the next few months to come on this issue.

(bold italics added)

This comment is simultaneously a concession to Donald Trump’s desire for detente with Russia – making it seem that Merkel agrees with Trump that an improvement of relations with Russia is a “necessity” – whilst actually imposing a condition that this depends on “clarification” of “the situation on the ground” in Ukraine.  What Merkel is saying is that the “necessary” improvement in relations with Russia depends on “a safe and secure solution for Ukraine” to be achieved through implementation of the Minsk Agreement as she interprets it.

Essentially this is a form of words Merkel has hit on in order to justify keeping the sanctions in place.

The trouble with using this sort of coded language is that whilst someone like Obama or indeed Putin would have no difficulty understanding it, it is highly doubtful that Donald Trump – a man not known for doing subtlety – either does or can be bothered to.  The result is that by continuing to use such coded language in Trump’s presence Merkel – instead of buying herself political space as she intends – is simply highlighting the difference between herself and Trump.

In truth what this exchange actually does is show how the coming of Donald Trump has made Merkel, with her use of coded language, her intricate policies, and her indirect approach to problems, look out of date and out of touch.

By contrast with his cursory words about Ukraine Donald Trump made unambiguously clear that his foreign policy priority is defeating Jihadi terrorism and ISIS.  Thus directly after his almost off the cuff comment on Ukraine Trump said this

Most importantly, our two countries must continue to work together to protect our people from radical Islamic terrorism and to defeat ISIS.  I applaud Chancellor Merkel for Germany’s contributions, both civilian and military, as a counter-ISIS coalition member.

(bold italics added)

The problem for Merkel is that for all the brave talk of German help in the anti-ISIS coalition and in Afghanistan, on this key issue which Donald Trump considers his overriding foreign policy priority, Germany compared to Russia has little to offer and little that it can do.

That this is so is shown by how Merkel struggled to say anything about it

And we said that, obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it.  One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example.  It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security.

We continue to be in conversation.  What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan.  I am very glad that the United States are intending to continue to commit to the Afghan mission as well.

Together, we fight against Islamist terrorism.  Germany is going to step up its work and is going to continue its work in Afghanistan and also in Syria.  We’re going to monitor the situation there very closely.  We’re going to work on political solutions in Syria, but also in Libya — what we talked about.

These comments are both nervous and empty.  They give the impression of Merkel struggling to come up with something meaningful to say.  That is one reason why they range so freely and so aimlessly from Africa to Afghanistan to Syria and to Libya in a few short platitudinous sentences.  They contain no definite commitments because Germany is in no position to make any.

As if this was not all already difficult enough for Merkel, she also had to listen to a fusillade from Trump trashing her positions on immigration and trade policy.

On immigration Trump made crystal clear his complete rejection of Merkel’s stance on the refugee question, once again emphasising how unlike her he views this issue purely through the prism of anti-terrorism, national security policy and national self-interest

We also recognize that immigration security is national security.  We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders.  Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.

On trade policy Trump made no secret of his belief that Germany has taken the US for a ride, and that he sees himself first and foremost as the CEO of United States Inc. and not as the leader of the “Free World”, and that he intends to put the US’s trade and business interests first, whilst putting the US’s trading and business rivals (including Germany) in their place.

In an extraordinary but highly revealing slip Trump even at one point referred to the US by mistake as a “very powerful company” before correcting himself and saying “country”.

First of all, I don’t believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy.  And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years.  And that’s going to stop.

But I’m not an isolationist.  I’m a free trader, but I’m also a fair trader.  And free trade has led to a lot of bad things happening — you look at the deficits that we have and you look at all of the accumulation of debt.  We’re a very powerful company — country.  We’re a very strong, very strong country.  We’ll soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before. Our military is going to be strengthened — it’s been depleted.

But I am a trader.  I am a fair trader.  I am a trader that wants to see good for everybody, worldwide.  But I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination.  So I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news…..

On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well.  Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States.  But hopefully we can even it out.  We don’t want victory, we want fairness.  All I want is fairness.

Germany has done very well in its trade deals with the United States, and I give them credit for it, but — and I can speak to many other countries.  I mean, you look at China, you look at virtually any country that we do business with.  It’s not exactly what you call good for our workers.

(bold italics added)

This is language the like of which Merkel has never heard before and which neither of the two previous US Presidents she has previously dealt with – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – would ever have used.

Merkel, whose entire career has been in politics and who has no business background, is peculiarly ill-equipped to deal with this sort of essentially mercantilist thinking, something which incidentally is also true of the rest of her cabinet.

Something else which will have added to Merkel’s concerns will be the gross insensitivity and lack of deference Trump showed to her.

Not only did Trump repeatedly cut in and answer questions before her, but he even made a joke targeting her former friend Obama at her expense when he drew a parallel between the NSA’s surveillance of her mobile phone with his claim that the Obama administration was listening in to his phone conversations

As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.  (Laughter.)

Merkel’s irritation and embarrassment at this quip was all too obvious to those attending the news conference.  A more sensitive person than Donald Trump would have anticipated it.  He either didn’t do so, or he did but didn’t care.  In either case he showed no interest in accommodating the feelings of his guest.

Overall the general impression left from Merkel’s visit is of a strained and unhappy relationship.

On issue after issue – NATO, the EU, immigration, trade, relations with Russia – Trump conceded nothing, and the gulf between Trump and Merkel was all too clear.

On the one foreign policy issue that Trump genuinely cares about – crushing Jihadi terrorism and defeating ISIS – Merkel had nothing to offer and appeared at a loss, with nothing useful to say.

Beyond that was the complete absence of any successful personal chemistry between the two leaders.

Whilst it is going too far to say that they actively dislike each other, their personalities and philosophies are so different that it is impossible to see how they can ever be friends, or even partners.  Quite simply Merkel lacks the uninhibitedness and quickness of mind and spirit needed to keep up with Trump – whose ideas she anyway barely understands – or to forge a good relationship with him, whilst Trump for his part is all too obviously concerned not to be taken for her patsy, and finds her ideological way of speaking all but incomprehensible.

Normally when two leaders disagree about so much and have so little in common, the result – usually after various unsuccessful attempts to patch things up – is a total breakdown in their relationship.

The nature of the relationship between the US and Germany however makes that impossible.  Unless Merkel ceases to be Chancellor soon or Trump is somehow removed from the White House, then for the next four years they will be stuck with each other in what will almost certainly become an increasingly unhappy and strained relationship.  Though almost certainly it is still too early for them to dislike each other, before long they probably will.

The alternative is for one of them to go soon.  Since it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Trump is going to be removed from the White House as a result of the ‘Russiagate’ scandal, that puts the question mark on Merkel’s future.

The German elite has had to endure for three years a Chancellor who has done serious damage to Germany’s critical relationship with Russia, and who has brought Germany’s relations with many of its EU partners to the point of crisis.  As elections in Germany loom, will they stick with their current Chancellor as Germany’s relations with Washington also now start to become more difficult, or will they finally start to look for someone new?

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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