Thursday, September 28, 2017


The parliamentary elections in Germany gave Chancellor Angela Merkel a victory, as was expected, but not a mandate, as was hoped for. The ultra-right cashed in an impressive check for its anti-immigration stand. The "leader of the free world" (in the eyes of most Europeans) will have to enter into negotiations with the Greens and the Free Democrats (liberals). Her overall leadership in the EU will be tested. The French president will not question the Berlin/Paris co- steering of European affairs, but the formula risks being reversed into a Paris/Berlin model.  President Macron did suggest a grand European overall blueprint for remodeling and advancing EU priorities. The president of the commission also came forward with an unusual and ambitious structural reform plan for the European institutions and for an enlargement of the EU.

The revisiting of the existing modus operandi of the EU comes at a time of improved economic and financial prospects. The aftershocks of "over-immigration" also look more manageable. There remains a political/strategic question mark.  Brexit will have long lasting consequences. It is also important not to let disappointments override the Atlantic partnership. Despite the European distaste for all things Trump, America is an indispensable ally, while Russia is a certified danger. 

It is time to remedy both Trump's parochial, shifted worldview and Europe's antipathy versus the nouveau regime in Washington. There are many problems which require that both sides of the Atlantic consult and cooperate: Turkey, Ukraine, the Baltics, Russia, Greece, China (Silk Road policy), the UK, populist outsiders in Central Europe, and last but not least, trade.  In matters where the distance appears to grow by the day (the Iran deal, climate, future challenges  -Antarctica, cyber security, health), both sides must find common ground based on the existing, yet improved international order.  Europe looks like it might finally have found its self-esteem back.  On the contrary, America appears to have entered into a darker chapter. This dangerous divergence needs to be corrected. Given the template of this American president (and his entourage), an uphill battle, waged on unfamiliar, anti-intellectual terrain, is in the make. President Macron might be the best choice to confront and cajole this most unusual ally from hell.

Germany remains the first power in Europe. Chancellor Merkel could play a symmetrical role with Russia, as Macron does with the US.  Putin tries to break the West, by way of melting a sugar lump in a hot samovar. He is adept in weakening, destabilizing or undermining Western institutions and countries.  Trump, who is anything but a creative or visionary statesman, acts as if he were Putin's debtor.  He has no Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, Brzezinski or Hillary Clinton, to counter Moscow's "games".  The Franco-German team had better come up with a strategy to simultaneously engage and counter Putin. Trump must be persuaded that there is a world beyond the zone of comfort offered by his base. An uphill battle!

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