Triple Threat to Merkel’s G20 Bump: Putin, Erdoğan, Trump

Triple Threat to Merkel’s G20 Bump: Putin, Erdoğan, Trump

Angela Merkel

To make the summit a success, the German chancellor must find a way to stand up to the USA president while avoiding a collision.

By Janosch Delcker | Politico

BERLIN — For Angela Merkel, meetings like the G20 summit in Hamburg are usually an opportunity to shine. This one comes with a strong dose of trouble.

The long-time German leader is known as the “summit chancellor” — Gipfelkanzlerin— for her ability to turn powwows with world leaders into bumps in the polls. Repeating the feat this week will require a tricky balancing act. 

Officials from the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) say they have identified “three critical variables” that could go badly in Hamburg: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and U.S.A. President Donald Trump.

Merkel’s challenge: standing up to this coterie of swellheaded strongmen while tamping down flare-ups, and — as host of the summit — herding 19 countries plus the European Union toward a presentable compromise for the summit’s final communiqué.

Failing on any of these counts risks leaving her looking weak in her last major appearance on the global stage before Germans head to the ballot box in September’s parliamentary election.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘What if we have a summit that isn’t successful because Trump is blocking everything?’” said a high-ranking CDU official involved in Merkel’s campaign. “Then, the [Gipfelkanzlerin] bonus is gone, and everything will go down another road.”

Merkel Looks On

Of the “three critical variables,” the easiest one to manage is likely to be Putin. Not long ago, the Russian president — who once famously exploited Merkel’s fear of dogs by bringing his large Labrador to a meeting — would have been a top cause of lost sleep among German officials.

Tensions between Russia and Germany have been high ever since the Kremlin annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. One year later, the European Union imposed sanctions against Moscow over its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

But this time around, the concern is less about the Russian president than about whom he will be meeting. The Hamburg summit will mark the first time Trump and Putin encounter each other in person since Trump became U.S.A. president.

An official bilateral scheduled for Friday has the potential for fireworks. Interest is high, following allegations of Russian interference in the American election. And neither man is likely to accept being upstaged by the other.

Merkel’s problem: This is the one event at the summit over which she has the least control. Merkel spoke to both men on the phone recently, and she will meet with Trump in person before he sees Putin. But on the day they meet, she will largely be constrained to the sidelines. “We can’t do much else than just wait to see what’s happening, and then react to it,” another CDU official said.

What will Erdoğan do?

Handling Erdoğan could be more challenging. Merkel’s relationship with the Turkish president has been on a downhill trajectory since last summer, when the German parliament enraged Ankara by passing a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide.

Tensions flared further in March after Berlin blocked several rallies in Germany in support of a constitutional referendum intended to strengthen Erdoğan’s powers. Germany is home to roughly 3 million ethnic Turks, almost half of whom are eligible to vote in Turkey, and Erdoğan regards the community as part of his political constituency. He reacted angrily to the ban, accusing Berlin of “Nazi practices.” Turkey also blocked visits by German MPs to its Incirlik airbase, used by German troops in the fight against ISIS.

A formal request, submitted by Ankara in June, for permission for Erdoğan to address Turkish citizens on the sidelines of the Hamburg summit, was perceived by Berlin as yet another provocation. The application was quickly rejected, but officials are concerned the Turkish president could nonetheless hold a rally inside a Turkish consulate in Germany, where Berlin has no jurisdiction.

“I hear and read rumors of potential appearances in the consulates via a video stream or something like that,” Martin Schäfer, a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry, said Monday. He emphasized “that appearances of such sort would need to be put forward to the German government with appropriate advance notice.”

The Trump Dilemma

It’s the U.S,A. president who’s most likely to give Merkel heartburn. “Merkel needs to succeed in not going on a collision course with Trump, while at the same time sticking to her principles,” said Dennis Snower, the president of the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel, Germany.

The chancellor plans to hold a one-on-one meeting with Trump on Thursday evening, before the summit officially starts, a German government spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

She is expected to focus the conversation on areas where Trump has signaled he believes multilateral cooperation is important, such as combating terrorism. But the differences between the two leaders are likely to loom large.

Government officials in Berlin say they believe Trump will use his first visit to Germany to complain about the country’s trade surplus and demand Berlin spend more on defense — repeating criticisms he made on the campaign trail, in a meeting with Merkel in Washington D.C. in March and most recently in late May, when he told participants at a NATO summit in Brussels that “the Germans are bad, very bad.”

Such a confrontation would be doubly delicate for Merkel. Trump is highly unpopular among Germans — unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who is still greeted by cheering crowds when he visits – And standing up to the U.S.A. president has become an important theme of the election campaign.

Few things would be more toxic to Merkel’s re-election efforts than being perceived as backing down before Trump on the global stage.

Walking the Line

For months, Merkel’s Social Democratic rival Martin Schulz has been trying to capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity in Germany. Last weekend, he dialed up the pressure, stressing in an interview that “the German chancellor needs to have the courage to entertain a conflict with the American president.”

In response to pressure from Schulz, Merkel has toughened up her rhetoric. Last week, reacting to renewed criticism of Germany’s trade surplus, she snapped back by pointing out the jobs German companies have created in the United States of America.Two days later, she suggested Washington’s positions on trade and the environment were out of touch with an increasingly globalized world.

So far, her strategy has been successful: Support for the chancellor has surged in the polls, where her conservatives are more than 15 percentage points ahead of Schulz’ Social Democrats.

In Hamburg, however, Merkel will have her hands tied. Instead of being on the campaign trail, she will be managing the theatrics of the summit — the culmination of which will be a joint communiqué representing the views of the assembled leaders. Failure to deliver something credible will put her leadership in a bad light. So much for the Gipfelkanzlerin.

To make the summit a success, Merkel must find a way to stand up to the U.S.A. president, while directing his attention, and that of the German electorate, toward areas of consensus — all the while managing the inevitable distractions at a gathering of 20 of the world’s largest egos.

It’s not likely to be an easy task.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    World Leaders Gather in Germany to Discuss … Hillary’s Email

    By Mark Sumner | Daily Kos

    The most powerful leaders in the world are gathered in Germany to discuss several high priority topics: making the world economy more resilient to change, improving sustainability, dealing with immigration and displacement due to wars and terrorism. It’s a pretty full plate.

    But of course, there is one topic that dominates them all; one issue that is at the forefront of concern for every engaged leader and would-be world power.

    According to the tweeter-in-Chief, Donald Trump: “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!”

    That’s right. Why did a man who was never the head of the DNC, refuse to steal their servers and give them to the CIA. Who never asked for them? Why? Didn’t. That. Happen?

    John Podesta is former Chairperson of the Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Election Campaign.

    Actually, what everyone in Hamburg is talking about is what a great night’s sleep they got on the really soft beds at their really classy hotels that their aides remembered to book in plenty of time. Did you know the Four Seasons brings warm strudel to your room? Yum.

    NEXT

    Trump’s team forgot to book a hotel, so they’re crashing on Hamburg’s couch for the G20

    By Hunter | Daily Kos

    Imagine when he finds out every other world leader is staying in a nicer place than he is.

    White House officials apparently waited too long to book accommodations for President Trump, leaving him without a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, as world leaders converge for the G20 summit. […]

    The Hamburger Abendblatt, a local news outlet, reported that the US government wanted to accommodate Trump in the Four Seasons, but it was already booked.

    In fact, it turns out that every luxury hotel in Hamburg was reportedly booked by the time the Americans called, leaving Trump, who is associated with an empire of hotel properties, scrambling for a place to stay.

    [I tell ya – dis man, Donald Trump, is a whole comic strip by he-self!]

    As a result of this apparent goof — which will no doubt result in a very, very crabby Trump during his G20 meetings — Donald will now apparently be staying in the city of Hamburg’s Senate guest house.

    It is quite nice, we presume, but it is not the Four Seasons and probably has very little to no gold-plated plumbing of the sort Donald is accustomed.

    BuzzFeed does not mention whether Donald will be paying them, and we have no current estimate how much the threat of nuclear war may or may not hinge on Donald Trump liking the guest house mattresses.

    That’s right. The “most powerful nation on earth” forgot to book a place to stay and is crashing on Hamburg’s couch for the duration of their important meetings.

    He’ll probably rifle through the medicine chest and make off with the towels. He seems like a towel-stealer, to me.

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 7, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Donald Trump claims ‘everyone at G20 is talking about John Podesta refusing to hand over the DNC server’

    Mr Podesta didn’t even work for the DNC

    Clark Mindock – New York | Independent UK

    Podesta’s vacation isn’t keeping him from punching back AP

    Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairperson has responded to a tweet from Donald Trump, calling the President a “whack job” and telling him to “get a grip”.

    Mr Trump is in Germany this week for what is expected to be a contentious G20 meeting after he announced that he would pull back from the Paris climate accord, an international agreement that took years to forge.

    In one of his tweets from Hamburg, Mr Trump claimed that “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!”

    It’s unclear why the President was bringing up the 2016 election issue so publicly at the summit, or even if world leaders were truly discussing Mr Podesta refusing to hand over servers from the Democratic National Committee — an organisation that Mr Podesta was not working for during the 2016 election, as he was with the Clinton campaign.

    “Get a grip man, the Russians committed a crime when they stole my emails to help get you elected President,” Mr Podesta tweeted in a string of jabs at the President. “Maybe you might try to find a way to mention that to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

    “Dude get your head in the game. You’re representing the USA at the G20,” he finished.

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 9, 2017 at 4:10 am

    MSNBC: Trump Rules Vs American Rules

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