Merkel’s unfriendly ally

Balance of Power

In the summer of 2006, when Angela Merkel was just months in office, she hosted President George W. Bush in her electoral district by the Baltic Sea. The visit cemented a turnaround in relations after the tensions caused by her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder's refusal to support the invasion of Iraq.

Fast forward to today, and Germany's ties with the U.S. have plumbed depths that would have been unimaginable then. President Donald Trump has made no secret of his disdain for Merkel and her policies. The chancellor has labeled Trump's America an unreliable ally.

But Trump's decision to withdraw more than a quarter of the U.S. troops stationed in Germany, traditionally regarded as a bulwark against Russia, risks undermining transatlantic security. As Patrick Donahue writes, the U.S. failed to inform Berlin, leaving Merkel exposed as she faces domestic pressure to get tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin on issues from Ukraine to a cyberattack on the German parliament.

Putin has a track record of needling Merkel, and the word in Moscow is he sees her as a lame duck before she steps down next year — just as he takes steps potentially to extend his rule.

Despite their differences, Merkel is the main conduit to Putin (even as France's Emmanuel Macron seeks a bigger role), speaking with him as recently as yesterday. Once she departs the political stage, that channel of dialogue will go too, regardless of whether Trump wins a second term. And that could make the world a more dangerous place.

— Alan Crawford

 Trump kisses Merkel at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France. on Aug. 25, 2019.

Photographer: Andrew Parsons - Pool/Getty Images Europe

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Global Headlines

Bumpy road | Trump's path to re-election in November just got trickier with the U.S. now in recession. The formal declaration comes as polls show the president's standing slipping across the board with the country reeling from the pandemic's economic impact and nationwide protests following the killing in police custody of George Floyd.

Balancing act | Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is walking a tightrope between showing support for protesters against racial injustice and preserving his appeal among a more moderate base. As Jennifer Epstein and Tyler Page report, his challenge is to encourage a large turnout among young blacks, while not losing older African-American voters and whites who could make a difference in battleground states.

Feeding billions | By 2050 the global population will be nudging 10 billion, with food consumption rising 70% in the first half of this century. To meet that demand requires three major changes: increased global trade; more efficient and varied production; and a change of diet. But as Iain Marlow and Agnieszka de Sousa write, the biggest obstacle is a political shift toward protectionism that has been made worse by the coronavirus.

Farmers throw bundles of cut wheat at a field in the Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on April 21.

Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

'Corporate kowtow' | U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo slammed HSBC Holdings for coming out in support of China's move to impose a national security law on Hong Kong. The British bank's top Asia executive signed a petition backing the controversial legislation after HSBC was singled out for its silence on the matter by a former hardline leader of Hong Kong. The bank's move has not only irked Pompeo: Major shareholder Aviva Investors has also expressed its discomfort.

Power shift | The generals are back in control in Pakistan — unofficially that is. There are now more than a dozen former and current military officials in prominent government roles, running the state-owned air carrier, the power regulator and the body leading the pandemic response. As Prime Minister Imran Khan sees his influence and popularity dwindle, he needs military support more than ever.

What to Watch

  • A Swedish prosecutor today announced ex-Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated by Stig Engstrom, a former employee of Skandia who committed suicide two decades ago, ending a 34-year-old murder mystery.
  • George Floyd's brother Philonise will testify today before the House Judiciary Committee as lawmakers consider legislation to change policing practices in the U.S.
  • Conservative party members are urging Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to delay paying off the record debt the U.K. is racking up to weather the pandemic.
  • German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is due in Israel today as European officials step up opposition to a proposed unilateral annexation of West Bank land they see as ending Palestinian hopes for an independent state.

And finally ... India's capital of 16 million people is the latest city at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid-19. As Muneeza Naqvi reports, the virus is sweeping through the halls of government, while bodies pile up in hospital morgues and crematoriums. Public health experts warn New Delhi's infection has not hit its peak, with authorities predicting cases will soar to 550,000 by the end of July.

Motorcyclists drive past an effigy reading "Stay Home" at a police barricade in New Delhi, May 14.

Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg



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