Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the G7 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  In this grandiose landscape she played a re-run of the Trapp saga, acting the Julie Andrews-part for her guests.
The locals and extras gave the whole affair a look which reminded some of Visconti's "The Damned" or of a Bunuel-like Bierfest.  The American president, refusing to be outdone (when it is safe), made the appropriate gestures with reference to Lederhosen and pretending to enjoy his beer stein.  The other guests behaved although their body language remained bizarre. The Japanese looked bewildered, the French was most reluctant in getting comfortable...and so on. Only the Merkels (yes, he was there, too) acted the part without a hitch.

The long-term was dealt with deftly. Climate change is after all a serious matter.  The G7 rallied behind a long-term goal to de-carbonize the global economy. This reduction by as much as 70% by 2050, together with the goal to hold the global average temperature below two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels are important steps.

Unfortunately, the short-term flash points remain.

--The Middle East is with us to stay and to get worse. Obama's meeting with Iraqi P.M. Haider al-Abadi was alwords, while ISIS continues to dismantle maps, borders and states in the region.  The US president said that he has no finalised strategy as yet.  This "admission" will haunt him, together with his Syrian "red lines" capitulation. 

--Some welcome the result of Turkey's elections but one had better prepare for the "unknown".

--Putin-bashing is no alternative for policy. I would personally have chosen to invite him and to engage him in court martial-mode. Russia and, it has to be recognized also Ukraine, share a perverse DNA, which can make them unwelcome as foe or as friend. Therapy needs proximity. Bad behaviour strives in isolation. Putin's transgressions of signed international covenants need to be sanctioned "properly."  It is to be expected that Jeb Bush European tour will convey a staunch anti-Putin message. Rightly so, the Russian leader saw it coming. Still, rhetoric alone or more assertive sanctions might not do the job. This Russian bunker is almost immune to cluster bombs. Putin might be more cautious if he risks censure by his "peers" worldwide. The former will only be inclined to join a G7 warning if they do not feel pressured into going for the jugular. Talk about "taking down Putin' will only backlash. After all, the Russians have their "say", and their voice needs to be heard in and out of the Kremlin.  Eastern European states need to be reassured by more sophisticated means. Russia can only be deterred by a massive show of force and commitment in Reagan style. The paper tigers who are letting loose now do not impress or reassure.

--Free trade agreements did not receive the attention they deserve, while China is meanwhile in overdrive, trying to check US influence in all matters.

The G7 is a useful tool, the more so given that the American president is not a spontaneously "gregarious" type, home or abroad. The American leadership has become a question mark, less because of possible inroads made by others than by a total lack of pro-active interplay with natural allies. The White House's "splendid isolation above the fray" is ruled by individuals who are out of reach by checks and balances. From Sergeant Bergdahl to Iran, and all there is in between, all major topics remain equally off-limits. This administration appears mostly preoccupied with keeping all the elephants in the room quiet. This is not exactly a roaring achievement. From now into the presidential elections, a lot can happen, most of it quite alarming.

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