Trump Is Starting to Get Under Merkel’s Skin

Ben Sills
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Trump Is Starting to Get Under Merkel’s Skin

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Angela Merkel is sick of Donald Trump’s constant bashing of Germany.

The German chancellor delivered one of the most impassioned speeches of her career, defending the multilateral order before an audience of western leaders and security officials in Munich this weekend.

One reason Merkel was so fired up was a U.S. push to drive a wedge between Germany and its European partners. Trump opposes Merkel’s plans for a new gas pipeline between Germany and Russia, and U.S. diplomats spent much of the past two weeks trying – and eventually failing – to persuade Paris and Brussels to side with the White House against Berlin.

While Merkel’s speech earned a standing ovation, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s claims that Europe is following Trump’s lead were met with awkward silence.

The signs are that the common democratic values that bound NATO together for much of its history may be giving way to a new era of great-power politics.

And that means life could get more uncomfortable still for the German leader.

Global Headlines

Comey memo | Trump wanted the 2017 memo firing FBI Director James Comey to cite the Russia investigation, former acting bureau director Andrew McCabe told CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The memo ultimately didn’t mention the probe, but Trump later made the connection anyway. McCabe also described an incident in which an unidentified FBI official heard Trump say he didn’t believe that North Korea could hit the U.S. with ballistic missiles – because Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him so.

Half-baked agreement | Japan’s leaders fear the country’s security could be at stake when Trump meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi for a nuclear summit at the end of February. Tokyo is worried that Trump may sign off on a deal that benefits his America First policy and does nothing to curtail the hundreds of missiles North Korea is pointing at Japan, some of which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. One former Japanese nuclear envoy said a “nightmare scenario” would be a half-baked deal.

All about Catalonia | The Spanish election campaign got under way over the weekend with opposition leaders berating Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for holding talks with Catalan separatists. With two months until polling day, the vote is shaping up as a choice between reconciliation and punishment for the northeastern region that tried to break away from Spain in 2017.

Democracy delayed | A last-minute postponement of Nigeria’s general elections by a week jolted the confidence of its people and investors in Africa’s biggest democracy. The decision, announced on Saturday just five hours before the polls were due to open, was condemned by both President Muhammadu Buhari and his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar. But the reputation of the entire political class has suffered a body blow.

Border backlash | As lawmakers in Washington prepare to respond to Trump’s national emergency declaration, landowners along the U.S-Mexico line say they fear a government land grab in their future. Rachel Adams-Heard traveled to the border to delve into the political complexity surrounding Trump’s push for a wall in Texas, a state where the president defeated Hillary Clinton by 9 percentage points 2016.

What to Watch

U.S.-China trade talks continue in Washington, as a just-completed Trump administration probe of auto imports raises the potential of new tariffs, with under-performing German manufacturers particularly at risk. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will lead a major diplomatic drive to persuade European Union leaders to save her Brexit agreement, as she faces a rebellion from Cabinet ministers who want to stop Britain leaving without a deal. Trump will demand that Nicolas Maduro leave power during a speech today in Miami directed at two audiences: the generals keeping Venezuela’s authoritarian leader in office and the tens of thousands of Venezuelan expatriates who may be key to the president winning Florida in 2020. 

And finally…You can tell a politician is in trouble when they start passing the buck for difficult decisions to voters. David Cameron’s Brexit referendum was the shining example. The leader of Italy’s Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has organized an online web ballot on whether to allow his coalition partner, Matteo Salvini, to be prosecuted over his immigration policy. While that may get Di Maio out of a corner, it doesn’t do much for the stability of Italy’s brittle government.


--With assistance from Jon Herskovitz and Kathleen Hunter.

To contact the author of this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at

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