I wrote the following article in early March 2016. Since then Angela Merkel’s political fortunes have declined precipitously. John Helmer writes in great detail on Russian issues at Dances With Bears. He has demonstrated an ability to drill deeply into whatever he focuses on. Several days ago he wrote:
HELLO RAPALLO! THE INEVITABILITY OF THE NEW GERMAN TREATY ON ECONOMIC COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA
Secret negotiations have been under way for some time between high German and Russian officials, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel has been excluded. Warned by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, and in a recent coded communication from outgoing President Barack Obama that she must act to save her authority, and enforce European Union sanctions against Russia, Merkel has also received an ultimatum from her cabinet and party. This watruth of the matters delivered in the form of a page torn out of an Old German bible in which a large black spot had been inked. Either she step aside in secret, Merkel understood the signal, or she will be forced to resign in public.
. . .
Excerpts of the new treaty, which has been drafted by ministry-level officials Merkel has been unable to stop, have been leaked by sources close to the two sides in the secret talks.
I can’t vouch for the truth of Helmer’s report, and it may be just an instance of confirmation bias on my part, but something about it intrigues me so I’m prefacing my blog from last March on Merkel with it.
A Teutonic Paneuropa? Will Angela Merkel Jump the Shark?
March 3, 2016
David L Goldman
- Angela Merkel’s ratings are way down in Germany
- Germany faces banking, refugee, foreign policy and economic growth crises
- The European Central Bank is looking for more German banking/sovereign debt sharing
- Germany is looking to Russia for more gas via Nord Stream 2
- The German Constitutional Court will rule on a case bearing on ECB debt sharing that would fall on Germany
Angela Merkel is not only the German chancellor, but is the ruling politician in the European Union. She has controlled through her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the appointment or election of Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU Commission (enforces all EU legislation), Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council (head of state), Martin Schultz, the president of the European parliament and Elmar Brok, the chairman of the EU parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. (See Doctorow at min 6) The latter 2 men are members of the German CDU.
There’s a German election coming up in late 2017. Maybe it’s her time to exercise all her political acumen to catch her opponents by surprise and to resurrect her popularity in Germany. When ratings decline it’s time to do something very different to get and keep attention . . .and power. In US televison land this has become known as jump the shark: do something utterly outlandish to save the show. Merkel’s Europe faces banking, refugee, economic and foreign policy challenges that have geopolitical ramifications. Merkel has taken firm stands on these issues that are increasingly unpopular. She is capable of juggling the complexity of what faces her and has proven in the past that she is the smartest politician in Germany. She is also enough of a power-loving opportunist for one to believe she might reconsider her positions and change course.
This article addresses whether Angela Merkel can address Germany’s difficulties at a time when her ratings are declining:
In the Infratest Dimap poll for public broadcaster ARD and newspaper Die Welt, released on Wednesday night, 46 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Merkel’s performance — down from 75 percent less than a year ago, in April 2015.
Source: Politico 2-4-16
A Portrait of Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel the politician has been seriously underestimated. That opinion has ended a number of German political careers. The following are quotes from a 12-1-14 New Yorker portrait of her: The Quiet German:
According to Karl Feldmeyer, the political correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, what drove Merkel was “her perfect instinct for power, which, for me, is the main characteristic of this politician.”
John Kornblum, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, who still lives in Berlin, said, “If you cross her, you end up dead. There’s nothing cushy about her. There’s a whole list of alpha males who thought they would get her out of the way, and they’re all now in other walks of life.”
Critics and supporters alike describe her as a gifted tactician without a larger vision. Kornblum, the former Ambassador, once asked a Merkel adviser about her long-term view. “The Chancellor’s long-term view is about two weeks,” the adviser replied. The pejorative most often used against her is “opportunist.”
“People say there’s no project, there’s no idea,” the senior official told me. “It’s just a zigzag of smart moves for nine years.” But, he added, “She would say that the times are not conducive to great visions.”
Merkel, at sixty, is the most successful politician in modern German history. Her popularity floats around seventy-five per cent—unheard of in an era of resentment toward elected leaders.
A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion—Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America.
Source: The New Yorker
Germany’s shark infested political seascape
Refugees and Teutonic Europe
I was inspired to put this article together by a series of articles by Adam Whitehead devoted to both the European refugee and the European banking/sovereign debt issues. The chief players mentioned are:
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Minister of Finance, Netherlands; President, Eurogroup, euro currency area finance ministers
Jean-Claude Juncker, President, European Commission
Dr. Jens Weidmann, President of the Deutsche Bundesbank; Member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank; Governor of the International Monetary Fund for Germany; Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank for International Settlements
Wolfgang Schaeuble, German Finance Minister
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank
The mini-Schengen zone
Very briefly, in response to the refugee issue there has been a very serious discussion going on for the past several months about the creation of a mini-Schengen Zone, named after an agreement of the same name that abolished passport and border controls amongst 26 European countries, as summarized here on 12-6-15 by Whitehead:
Under Dijsselbloem’s plan, a new mini-Schengen Zone comprised of the trusted nations of Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Germany may need to be formed. This new “Core European” gang of four could loosely be called “Teutonic Europe” [Whitehead’s term]. Its formation therefore implies the creation of a parallel economic and political zone in which the Euro is used. By logical extension, other nations will then have to apply to join it; although the official criteria for membership as yet remain unknown.
[11-30-15, German chancellor Angela Merkel held a surprise mini-summit in Brussels on Sunday with seven refugee-positive EU countries aiming to create a “coalition of the willing”. Sweden, Finland, Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and Greece were present at the talks, held two hours before Sunday’s summit with Turkey]
Building on Dijsselbloem’s platform, Angela Merkel extended membership of the “Teutonic Zone” to the nine nations who have accepted the most immigrants from Syria. The “Teutonic Zone” therefore has both economic and political drivers of unification, based on current conditions.. . .Its first tactical political step will be the fast tracking of an immigration deal with Turkey. This will then serve as the platform for the creation of all foreign policy for the new Eurozone. As the wider Eurozone disintegrates, there is therefore a substitute ready to take its place. [emphasis added]
Source: Seeking Alpha
Mutualizing EU bank deposit insurance
On 12-20-15, Whitehead connects the refugee issue via a new Schengen zone consolidation to the intra-European fight over a proposal to mutualize bank deposit insurance, i.e., two transitions for the price of one?
[The European Central Bank] . . .has degenerated into a platform, through which differing factions fight for control of the monetary system and governing policy of the Eurozone, at a time when the pressure for it to split up has become extreme. The previous report [Whitehead’s of 12-6-15 above]. . . observed Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s proposal for what was termed “Teutonic Europe” to replace the current degenerating system. The latest revelations of skulduggery, in the corridors of power at the ECB, provide further credibility to this thesis of a “Teutonic Europe” alternative to the current status quo.
. . .
The ECB, which owns Spanish sovereign debt, must be getting very nervous. Presumably this is one reason why the ECB is so keen on mutualising the debts and deposits of Eurozone nations. The ECB is now facing a systemic failure which will translate into its own insolvency and forced liquidation.
. . .
Germany on the other hand, with trade and budget surpluses, is ready and able to foreclose on the ECB and the whole Eurozone by converting its debt claims on these counterparties into political equity. When faced with this recapitalization, some countries will no doubt walk away from the Eurozone, leaving those remaining in something similar to “Paneuropa” [one united European state].
. . .
Jens Weidmann signalled that Germany is now turning its intentions and capabilities in this direction. He was unapologetic for the German current account surplus, which now stands at 8% of GDP. In fact he blamed this number on the falling oil price and the weakness of the Euro. . . . Germany’s surplus, in his opinion, is not as dangerous as other nations’ reciprocal deficits. Germany is therefore not the problem. Indeed it is the solution, if only other Eurozone nations would follow its example of economic management. [emphasis added]
Source: Seeking Alpha
Whitehead notes on 2-4-16 that the debate regarding the Eurozone monetary system has now expanded into a contest between Mario Draghi et al and those who have apparently tied their political future and their vision of Europe to their commitment to German monetary models:
Italian Prime Minister Renzi transformed the country’s position on its banking crisis into a sovereign debt crisis issue. By so doing, he opened up a can of worms, inside of which Jean-Claude Juncker could be seen squirming with embarrassment. Juncker has been recently noticed booking his seat at the “Paneuropa” Last Supper event for the Eurozone. He hopes to enjoy life in the hereafter of a new Eurozone run more closely along the German lines of thinking. Matteo Renzi reminded Juncker that his position in the here and now is predicated upon his ability to mutualise bank deposit insurance and sovereign debt across the Eurozone.
In a joint press conference with Angela Merkel, Renzi opined that “we are asking that the rules are applied without any misunderstandings over the fact that for us, flexibility was a necessary part of the accord that led to the election of Jean Claude Juncker,” and also that “I have not changed my mind on flexibility, I hope that Jean Claude Juncker has not changed his mind.”
Juncker has been reminded that his political survival is tied to the issues of flexibility and mutualisation. This is a signal of the deal-breaker that finally splits the Eurozone. Germany sees combined flexibility and mutualisation as essentially sanctioning the monetization of state deficits in one nation by another. This move conflicts directly with the Stability Pact rules that Germany wishes all Eurozone nations to adhere to.
. . .
Jens Weidmann’s behaviour highlights the growing trend amongst ECB Governing Council members to talk their own national central bank’s book when it comes to opining in general on Eurozone matters. This trend underlies the larger systemic degenerating trend towards partisanship along national sovereign lines within ECB policy making in general.[emphasis added]
Source: Seeking Alpha
This is truly a very very brief summary of Adam Whitehead’s work. The refugee and monetary/banking situations change daily, what with the problems of Germany’s Deutsche Bank making headlines of late. See here and here. I urge those of you with a bent for banking esoterica and who are devoted to the arcana of European monetary frolic and detours to read Whitehead’s articles. The reason I have cited all the above is to give an hint of how far-reaching the results of addressing just the refugee and monetary issues could be. Two more things to be aware of: in this 2-12-16 article from Germany’s Spiegel Online, “Turkish-German Pact: EU Split by Merkel’s Refugee Plan,” there is no mention of a mini-Schengen zone. Too sensitive to trot out to a German audience? In addition, there is another player yet to weigh in on the monetary issues above, the German Constitutional Court, but I’ll get to that below.
GERMANY: THE EXPORT NATION PAR EXCELLANCE
Source: World Bank via Malden Economics
Germany is the leading export nation in the world as a percent of GDP. George Friedman sums up the problem he sees facing Germany quite succinctly in this short (5:43 min) video:
The real problem in Europe and the stress that people are feeling is not simply immigration. . . .southern Europe has unemployment rates of 20%, some 25%. This is Spain. This is Italy. This is the Balkans. This is all of Mediterranean Europe. These unemployment rates are the same rates that the US had in the Great Depression. . . .[Immigration] is the biggest problem [northern Europe] thinks they’re facing. But there’s a bigger one. [There is] a crisis of exports . . .[Germany] derives 50% of its GDP from exports. It can’t expand those exports. . .The biggest problem in Europe now is Germany. An extraordinarily vulnerable, insecure country. It knows it is living in a bubble. On top of that you put the immigrants and you’ve got an explosive situation.
. . .
This is a country that simply can’t sustain this kind of export rate at this level of its economy. . . It’s going to wind up in a financial crisis and an economic crisis of the first order. . . . Germany has so far dodged all the bullits being fired at it. That can’t go on forever.
Source: Business Insider 1-14-16
What makes this export “dependency” even more compelling are the sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU pursuant to the Ukrainian conflict and Russia’s purported responsibility for it.
These sanctions are hitting German exporters hard:
Sanction Spiral Successful: German Exports to Russia Plunge
by Wolf Richter • July 29, 2014
The German economy lives and dies by its exports. While Russia isn’t Germany’s largest trading partner, not anywhere near, it is important. In 2013, German exports to Russia had already dropped over 5% to €36.1 billion, triggered by the economic downturn in Russia. So the 17% plunge this year on top of last year’s drop would amount to a 22% swoon from the halcyon days of 2012. And now there are worries about the 300,000 jobs in Germany that depend on this trade with Russia.
“The German-Russian economic relations are currently heavily burdened,” Volker Treier, foreign trade chief of the DIHK, told the Handelsblatt. Many German companies in Russia are fretting that Russian companies are going to walk away from the relationship. “In part that has already happened,” he said. “Russian customers fear evidently that German companies would be unable to fulfill their delivery and maintenance obligations because of the threat of economic sanctions.” This fear is particularly widespread in the mechanical engineering sector, Germany’s forte.
Source: Wolf Street
German Business Sharply Protests EU Sanctions Against Russia
Germany has already lost 6.5 billion euros in trade in 2014, and is expected to lose another 8.5 billion in 2015 : 12-17-15
Original Source: Deutshe Wirtschafts Nachrichten 12-17-15
Senior German Party Leader Seehofer Questions Sanctions on Russia
The deputy chairman of the Christian Social Union, the top party in Bavaria and a cornerstone of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s support, says it’s time to talk about ending the sanctions [emphasis added]
Original Source: Die Welt 12-18-15
German Farmers Association Demands End to Sanctions on Russia
German farmers have lost 1 billion Euros so far – whether German agriculture can even win back the market it has lost in Russia as a result of sanctions is an open question
Original Source: Deutshe Wirtschafts Nachrichten 1-12-16
Die Welt reported that as of June 2015 the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Wifo) estimated the cost of these sanctions to Europe would run to “more than two million jobs and 100 billion euros in added value at risk.” Germany was estimated to be facing the immediate (unmittelbar) loss of 175,00 jobs and 290,000 more if
Source: Infographics World
sanctions continued (bei anhaltenden Sanctionen).
Often overlooked in the maximization of exports by Germany is the fact that it has exploited its powerful economic engine to “colonize” the former E. European satellites as sources of manufacturing and cheap labor. The underlying concept is called Mitteleuropa. In fact this is an idea that figured in the Nazi plans for the Third Reich. These plans and especially the Nazi legal structures intended for imposition on Europe are detailed by Joseph P. Farrell in his “The Third Way: The Nazi International, European Union, and Corporate Fascism.” Frenchman Emmanuel Todd offered some very useful analysis of this as well:
Germany holds the European continent by Emmanuel Todd (3) 9-8-14
But fundamentally, the new German system is based on the annexation of workforces. First were those used in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, etc. The Germans reorganized their industrial system using their cheap labor. The active population of Ukraine of 45 million inhabitants, with its good level of education inherited from the Soviet era, would be an outstanding decision for Germany, the possibility of a dominant Germany for a long time, and most importantly, with his empire, immediately passing actual economic power over the United States. [Poor] Brzezinski !
Source: Les Crises.fr
Germany’s fast hold on the european continent, by Emmanuel Todd 11-16-14
ET: The recent German power built itself up by putting to capitalist work populations which were formerly communist. This may be a thing of which the Germans themselves are not enough aware of, and maybe that this could be their true fragility: the dynamic of the German economy is not only German. Part of the success of our German neighbours stems from the fact that the Communists were much interested in education. They left behind them, not only obsolete industrial systems, but also populations that were remarkably well educated.
But it must be acknowledged that Germany has substituted itself to Russia as the controlling power in Eastern Europe and that it has succeeded in turning this into a strength. Russia, by contrast, had been weakened by its control over the popular démocracies, as the military cost was not compensated for by economic gain. Thanks to the United States, the cost of military control is, for Germany, close to zero.
Source: Les Crises.fr
For a more comprehensive take on Todd’s views see the article linked below and in this case, do read the comments following it:
Is Berlin Once Again Set On Hegemony in Eastern Europe?
Notable historian and commentator says that while careful not to challenge the US Berlin is using the EU project to transform countries on EU’s periphery into satellites of Germany
Source: Russian Insider 5-11-15
See also McKinsey’s 12/13: “A new dawn: Reigniting growth in Central and Eastern Europe”
GERMANY: NATURAL GAS: NORD STREAM 2: PUTTING THE ENERGY PEDAL TO THE METAL
The second phase of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, paralleling Nord Stream 1, which supplies Germany with 30+% of its gas, appears to be picking up momentum in spite of what was perceived as Nord Stream 2 inconsistency with the EU’s Third energy package, the same alleged inconsistencies opponents of the South Stream natural gas pipeline relied on to kill that project.
The EU has prevented a project to bring more Russian gas to Southeastern Europe, namely the now defunct “South Stream”, but apparently nothing prevents Germany from helping Russia carry out its project to bypass Ukraine [emphasis added]
Source: EurActiv.com. 9-4-15
Source: Map of Nord Stream 1 and 2, plus planned extensions. [Nord Stream website]
Statements coming out of the December 2015 EU energy summit from European Council’s President Donald Tusk might lead us to believe that Nord Stream 2 is unlikely to be built:
European leaders convened [sic] that any new infrastructure – Nord Stream 2 included – has to comply with European laws and with the objectives presented in the Energy Union, European Council’s President Donald Tusk said on Friday after the meeting.
“We discussed the conditions that need to be met by major energy infrastructure projects. What we have agreed is that any new infrastructure should be fully in line with Energy Union objectives, such as reduction of energy dependency and diversification of suppliers, sources and routes” he said in a statement.
Presenting the outcome of the EU summit in Brussels, Tusk explained that the projects can stumble upon political, legal or financial hurdles.
“All projects have to comply with all EU laws, including the third Energy Package. This is a clear condition for receiving support from the EU institutions or any Member State – be it political, legal or financial.”
Tusk explicitly mentioned the Nord Stream 2, saying it does not meet EU energy rules on supply diversification. He also added that the pipeline extension would undermine Ukraine’s role as a gas transit country. [emphasis added]
Source: Natural Gas Europe 12-18-15
But from the statements made since that meeting by Austria and Italy indications are that (t)he ‘elephant’ at the EU summit [the issue of Nord Stream 2] will turn out to have been Angela Merkel and that President Tusk didn’t get the interoffice memo from German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel: “German authorities should have the final say in all legal issues.” The Germans expect the Russians to be cooperative, so not to worry. If built, Germany will collect transit fees for gas that flows through and beyond it. This is likely to be billions of euros.
The German Constitutional Court Case
In his 2-4-16 article, Adam Whitehead pointed out that the German Constitutional Court will be hearing a set of cases that reprise an issue that could determine the future of efforts by proponents of debt mutualization in the EU. This means that Germany could become liable for even more of the debts run up by the other EU nations. Think Italy. Think Spain.
Germany’s top court next month will rehear five lawsuits alleging that the country should oppose the European Central Bank’s [ECB] 2012 bond-buying program even after European Union judges last year cleared it with minor strings attached.
The Federal Constitutional Court, which will have to make a final ruling in the cases after receiving guidelines from the European Court of Justice, will rehear the lawsuits Feb. 16, the tribunal said in a statement Friday. The German judges will address whether the ECJ’s backing of the Outright Monetary Transactions [OMT] program [ECB purchases in the secondary sovereign bond market of other EU country sovereign debt] and the potential action by the ECB are in line with German constitutional principles.
The hearing is the next step in a long national dispute over the OMT, a program that was never put into action. The German court first heard the case in 2013. In early 2014, the judges sent it to the European Union’s highest tribunal adding a list of demands to curb the program. The Karlsruhe-based court will now look at the guidelines it received and test them under with the national constitution’s democracy principles.
The ECB announced details of the OMT plan in September 2012, as bets multiplied that the euro area would break apart, and after its president Mario Draghi promised to do “whatever it takes” to save the currency. The calming of financial markets produced by the still-untapped OMT program helped the euro area emerge from its longest-ever recession. [emphasis added]
Source: Bloomberg Business 1-15-16
Since the hearing for 2-16-16 was scheduled, the Court issued a ruling on 1-26-16 in another case that has negative implications for the quantitative easing sought by Mario Draghi, the EC Bank president, that the Outright Monetary Transactions program would represent.
Germany’s top court used a ruling in an extradition case to drop hints that it is willing to step in when there are fundamental conflicts between European Union law and the country’s constitution, weeks before it hears a case over the European Central Bank’s bond-buying program.
. . . In the document, the judges cited the argument that the court may declare EU acts inapplicable in Germany if they transgress powers granted under the bloc’s treaties and violate basic principles of the country’s constitution.
Coming three weeks before the court hears a case against the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions program, the decision may signal that the judges are sticking to the idea that German constitutional standards can trump EU acts. While the OMT program was cleared by the European Court of Justice last year with minor strings attached, the German judges will hear more arguments in the case. They had never ruled against any EU action, usually relying on the “EU-friendliness” of the German constitution. [emphasis added]
Source: Bloomberg Business 1-26-16
This case constitutes an opportunity to advance the “Teutonic Paneuropa” concepts mooted above: a plausible rationalization–if the Court rules that the German constitution forbids this type of QE [quantitative easing]–for those who want to restructure EU Schengen zone rules, refugee policies, energy policies, economic sanctions and monetary policies on a grand scale. Adherents of restructuring of EU institutions could claim they have no choice but to radically restructure the EU and consider an even more German-centric entity. To split the EU into northern and southern zones and abandon the biggest sovereign debtors to their fate. Without Germany footing any more debts.
On 2-8-16 two of Europe’s leading bankers, Jens Weidmann, President of the Deutsche Bundesbank; and François Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France, have proposed a sharing of sovereignty amongst 19 European countries concurrent with the creation of a single EU treasury. That would be a radical restructuring of the EU.
Will Angela Merkel jump the shark ?
She appears to me to be the only politician in Europe who could muster the intellect, political acumen and opportunism to put on the skis and make the jump. But. She’s not a person of vision and has the burden of some serious personal biases. Recall from above:
Critics and supporters alike describe her as a gifted tactician without a larger vision. Kornblum, the former Ambassador, once asked a Merkel adviser about her long-term view. “The Chancellor’s long-term view is about two weeks,“ the adviser replied.
A strong visionary leader(s) could lead the way to solve the German export issue by tackling the sanctions against Russia, the refugee issue by reconstituting the Schengen zone regime with a view to realistic internal capacity and security issues and shield Germany from further intra-EU sovereign debt issues while providing the fiscal space to rescue Deutsche Bank, among others. Relations with Russia figure very large and that is the geopolitical elephant in this room. Russia has the resources to make a much closer German-Russian relationship one of the most powerful economic combinations in the world. German leaders in the past have advocated that. It would give Germany the ability to throw off US domination. The Russians understand the need for a multi-polar world: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov recently alluded to the possibilty of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for Japan:
We’re interested in close and friendly relations with Japan.
. . .
After all, we are not asking for something exorbitant. We want only one thing from Japan – to say that it is committed to the UN Charter like all other countries that signed and ratified it, in all of its clauses, including Article 107 that says that the results of WWII are not subject to revision. I don’t think that these demands are too much. Japan has ratified this document.
. . .
To fulfil the agreement of our leaders and develop bilateral relations on an entirely new level across the board, including international activities, we would like to cooperate more closely in foreign policy affairs and see a more independent Japan, all the more so since it hopes to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We understand this desire. We’d like those countries that are striving to receive permanent membership in the UN Security Council to bring added value and an additional element of balance in their positions. When a country takes the same position as the United States, it doesn’t contribute much to the political process or adjust the balance in the drafting of decisions. In principle, we would like to see every country (President Putin spoke about this in detail as regards the European Union) to be independent in the world arena and be guided by its own national interests. [emphasis added]
Source: Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on Russia’s diplomacy performance in 2015, Moscow, January 26, 2016
No doubt Germany would like a seat at that table. Is Moscow worth a mass (compromising on a principle that seems essential for something far more important)?
Angela Merkel came to power in a uni-polar geopolitical world . What’s more, she became the most successful German political leader in generations at a time and in a country that did not foster female ambitions. If she were to consider jumping the shark, she’d need to reconsider those parts of her biography that are no longer serviceful for Germany:
The two world leaders with whom Merkel has her most important and complex relationships are Obama, who has won her reluctant respect, and Putin, who has earned her deep distrust.
After Putin’s speech at the Bundestag, Merkel told a colleague, “This is typical K.G.B. talk. Never trust this guy.”
[After Putin’s dog frightened Merkel during a visit with Putin at his residence], Merkel interpreted Putin’s behavior. “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man,” . . . “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this [macho behavior].”
Soon after the annexation of Crimea, Merkel reportedly told Obama that Putin was living “in another world.” She set about bringing him back to reality.
Source: The New Yorker 12-1-14
Putin is the leading actor in today’s geopolitical theater and if Merkel still thinks she can treat him as if he is merely a macho fool she’s definitely not the leader who will achieve for Germany conceivably the status it deserves.
Will Angela Merkel jump the shark ? I don’t think so. Will she overcome her career long habit of waiting to determine if the political winds favor her ability to hold and exercise power? Probably not. But, make no mistake about it: this is only a brief summary of the challenges facing Germany and the issues I’ve covered would be daunting for any leader at any time in history.
And these are very big skis to wear.