Sunday, March 12, 2017

The US - Russia - Germany Triangle and the Trump Affair - News Review

The US - Russia - Germany Triangle and the Trump Affair

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The time for German leadership has arrived


A Storm Is Brewing Over Europe - Stratfor - 2.14.17


"But the pressure will also be on Merkel. For almost 70 years the Federal Republic of Germany has regarded the US not only as the guarantor of its liberty, but as its best friend and ally. If the US drops out of the German and EU equation, Germany will be pushed into unknown territory. This is not what Germans like."

"If anything goes wrong the consequences could be devastating both in terms of Germany's domestic politics and the weakness of West in the face of Russian advances. In short, the stakes could hardly be higher."

Donald Trump - Google News: When Donald Trump meets Angela Merkel: the five key battleground areas -


"In fact, Russia and Germany see Trump’s ascent to power differently. While Germans would prefer Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office, Russians are among the few people who seem to be happier with the Republican Trump. While Germany raises eyebrows at Trump and all his moves and expects the worsening of relations with the U.S., many Russians hail the new U.S. president and expect to improve relations under Trump. At the same time, the Kremlin might be interested in worsening relations between Germany and the U.S. In this scenario, disappointed with Trump, Berlin could turn back to Moscow."

The shift in US-Germany relations has implications for Russia | Russia Direct


"Forecasting a more transactional relationship

With a Trump administration in place, the relationship between Berlin and Washington is set to change. The nature of this will significantly shift from a shared understanding of the values underpinning the global liberal order to a far more transactional one. Like it or not, the most powerful country in the world and the dominant power in Europe will have to work together. Four issues emerge as key areas for cooperation and, at times, disagreement between the two. First of all, Germany and the US will have to step up cooperation on intelligence. International terrorism, a bellicose Russia and cyber warfare demand it.

Both Germany and the US have no time to waste on this issue. Luckily, the working relationship between the intelligence communities on both sides of the Atlantic is deep and long-standing. This state of affairs should somehow help in managing the transition from the current to the future White House. The Trump administration will leverage its intelligence superiority and, in return for sharing its intelligence, it will demand greater German compliance with its demands.


All main German political parties with the exception of the far-right view an incoming Trump administration with dismay and apprehension. Foreign policy experts as well as mass public opinion feel the same. Germany feels therefore obliged to increasingly take on the reluctant leadership role that its hegemonic economic, political, diplomatic and potentially military position trusts upon it.

Within this context and as the preeminent global and European powers respectively, America and Germany will have to agree on a shared strategic vision. One can therefore forecast a far more transactional relationship than the one witnessed with the Obama administration. Intelligence sharing, transatlantic trade, the Russia - Ukraine relationship and Germany’s leadership role within the European Union are the four key issues upon which the relationship will evolve."

Why Germany and the US are in for a troubled relationship


"Thus, the situation around the Germany-Russia-U.S. triangle is more complicated, with everything depending on the specific moves of either Trump or Putin and the development of the civil war in Ukraine." 

German elections won't be game-changer for US or Russia


» News: When Donald Trump meets Angela Merkel: the key battleground areas
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The isolation of Angela Merkel’s Germany

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Angela Merkel has described the concept she is now the de facto chief of the western world as “grotesque” and “absurd”. The German chancellor’s angst is comprehensible. Modern Germany has no want to steer the west and isn’t highly effective sufficient to bear that burden.
But unrealistic expectations aren’t the one purpose for German nervousness. If Ms Merkel appears to be like out from the glass field of the chancellor’s workplace in Berlin there’s bother on each horizon. To the east are the ever extra authoritarian and Germanophobic governments of Poland and Hungary. And additional east a hostile Russia. To the west, is the US of Donald Trump; to the north the UK of Brexit. And to the south lie Italy and Greece, two troubled nations that more and more blame Germany for his or her financial woes.
Collectively, the scenario threatens to revive an previous German nightmare: the concern of being a big, remoted power on the centre of Europe. The scenario should really feel much more grotesque as a result of — not like within the 20th century — Germany’s present loneliness has little or no to do with the nation’s personal malign behaviour. On the opposite, it’s the world round Germany that’s altering quick, as populism and nationalism surge throughout Europe and within the US.
Of course, there are criticisms that may be made of the Merkel authorities’s dealing with of the euro and refugee crises. Those criticisms are made with nice ferocity in Warsaw, Athens and different EU capitals. But no person significantly doubts fashionable Germany’s dedication to liberal values at home, and internationalism overseas.
The downside is that Germany’s unwavering dedication to those values feels just like the exception within the west, not the rule. One American delegate, coming back from the latest Munich Security Conference, remarked to me that “it felt good to be in a normal country, again”. But German normality is now irregular.
The hazard and peculiarity of Germany’s place is underlined compared with the worldwide scenario that confronted the nation in mid-2008, simply earlier than the outbreak of the monetary disaster. That summer time, a charismatic and idealistic US presidential candidate named Barack Obama got here to Berlin and spoke earlier than an enormous and enthusiastic crowd.
In Moscow, a extra pro-western president, Dmitry Medvedev, took over from Vladimir Putin. With the eastward enlargement of the EU lately accomplished, Germany was now surrounded by pleasant democracies that have been fellow members of the bloc. The euro gave the impression to be working effectively and the nations of southern Europe have been affluent and shared Germany’s enthusiasm for the EU. Both Britain and France have been ruled by pro-EU centrist governments.
Less than a decade on and all of that has modified completely. For Germany, probably the most troubling developments are most likely these closest to home. The EU is supposed to be the final word assure in opposition to the return of German isolation on the European continent. But Britain has voted to depart. Brexit signifies that the EU is dropping a rustic that has at all times been essential to the European steadiness of power. It additionally units a precedent for attainable future defections. It is now clear that the EU can certainly break up.
Almost as alarming for Germany is the prospect that nations will keep inside the EU, however then fail to respect its elementary values and financial guidelines. The erosion of democracy in Poland and Hungary — amid a resurgent nationalism — is profoundly worrying for the Merkel authorities as a result of there isn’t a clear treatment. The EU was meant to be the insurance coverage coverage in opposition to this type of factor nevertheless it has did not ship.
In the approaching weeks and months, populist and nationalist events may also carry out strongly within the Dutch and French elections. If Marine Le Pen wins the French presidency in May, many in Berlin concern that the EU might collapse.
Meanwhile in Italy, the pro-EU centre is shrinking beneath the affect of the euro disaster. The populist and Eurosceptic Five Star motion is the nation’s primary opposition and will come to power within the subsequent 12 months. The Greek debt disaster could quickly revive.
Developments in Moscow and Washington are additionally profoundly worrying for the German authorities. Germany led the European response to Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea. But the value of that has been a pointy rise in hostility between Ms Merkel’s Germany and Mr Putin’s Russia. Given the grotesque historical past of the 20th century, a hostile relationship with Moscow places a particular psychological strain on Berlin.
Throughout the chilly struggle, West Germany might a minimum of look to the US for steadfast help. But within the Trump period that may now not be relied upon. On the opposite, Mr Trump has been overtly contemptuous of Ms Merkel and has raised severe questions on his dedication to the broader western alliance.
With a lot going mistaken for Germany, an enormous quantity hangs on the French election. If the pro-EU, pro-German Emmanuel Macron wins the presidency, there might be enjoyment of Berlin. His election would break Germany’s rising sense of isolation, and provide renewed hope Franco-German partnership can revive the EU. By distinction, if Ms Le Pen wins, the German nightmare might be full.
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The time for German leadership has arrived - Google Search

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The time for German leadership has arrived

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Angela Merkel’s visit to Washington next week will be among the most important — and most awkward — of her career. The German chancellor must attempt to strike up a decent relationship with Donald Trump, despite the scorn he has poured on her policies.
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Ms Merkel did not seek this challenge. Nonetheless, it could be useful if it prompts an overdue rethink of Germany’s place in the world.
Since the second world war German leaders have, understandably, shrunk from the idea that their country can exercise leadership on the global stage. The view in Bonn and then Berlin was that German power should be exercised through “Europe”. But the EU is no longer enough. Foreign policy challenges are crowding in: a US president who questions the Nato alliance, war in Ukraine, refugees from a collapsing Middle East, Brexit, and Turkey’s nationalist turn.
The EU is too weak and Germany is too large for “Europe” to be a complete response to all these challenges. At the same time, talk of Germany emerging as the moral leader of the west is wildly overblown. The truth lies somewhere in between. Germany needs a more imaginative and assertive approach to the world, alongside an appreciation of the limits of what it can do alone.
Start with military spending. In the age of Mr Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the issue can no longer be avoided. Germany spends less than 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence, compared with a Nato target of 2 per cent. This has to change, and Germany has pledged to meet the Nato target by the mid-2020s. But, with the agreement of its allies, it would make sense to spend some of the additional money on broader security issues rather than pouring it all into rearmament. German largesse could go into the funding of proper border police for the EU and refugee processing centres and stabilisation funds for North African countries such as Libya.
The idea of a “European army” remains popular in Germany. But deep military integration is unrealistic when EU countries are divided on fundamental foreign policy issues. For the moment, it would be better to push harder on a practical matters such as common EU procurement policies on weaponry, which would make it much easier for EU armies to work together.
Germany needs a more imaginative and assertive approach to the world, alongside an appreciation of the limits of what it can do alone
Germany also faces crucial diplomatic challenges. On Brexit, the Merkel government (or its successor) has to balance maintaining EU unity with the broader interest in a solid economic and strategic relationship with Britain. There is a danger that the current mantra of “no cherry-picking” (that is, no special deals for Britain) will lead to a needlessly confrontational Brexit that leaves Germany poorer and less safe.
When it comes to Russia, Germany has done a courageous job of leading the EU sanctions effort over Ukraine. The danger now is that a US policy shift will cut the ground from underneath Ms Merkel. The chancellor should use her Washington visit to make the case for holding the line on sanctions until Russia stops meddling in Ukraine. With the US posture towards Russia in chaos, her voice could count for a lot.
More broadly, Germany can make the case for the rules-based international system, in Washington and elsewhere. As the Trump administration weighs the temptations of ignoring the World Trade Organization and bypassing the UN, Ms Merkel can and should emerge as a champion of the global trading system and international law.
The challenges Ms Merkel faces — from Moscow to the Middle East and from Washington to London — are daunting. But Germany has two big things going for it: a strong economy and international respect — global opinion polls regularly show that modern Germany is one of the most popular countries in the world.
Germany can retain the respect of international opinion, even as it takes a more energetic leadership role, by sticking to Ms Merkel’s values-based approach to foreign policy. She emphasised shared western values in her initial, appropriately cautious, response to Mr Trump’s victory. Despite depending upon the co-operation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey over refugees, Ms Merkel has spoken out on behalf of press freedom in his country.
The badly needed transition to a vigorous and creative German foreign policy will be politically difficult, both at home and abroad. Standing up for liberal values around the world will open the way.
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Moscow resets expectations as disorder reigns in Washington

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Ten years ago Vladimir Putin angrily declared that the post-cold war order was a sham. Standing before the western military and diplomatic establishment at the Munich Security Conference, the Russian president accused the US of plunging the world into chaos by warmongering, meddling in other countries’ affairs and disregarding international law. For many, it marked the moment that Mr Putin became an adversary.
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Now, as foreign policy and security officials gather again in the Bavarian city, the western order that Mr Putin railed against suddenly looks fragile. The agenda-setting security report for this year’s Munich Security Conference asks whether the west is collapsing after public discontent triggered the UK’s exit from the EU and brought Donald Trump to power in the US.
And the sidelined, victimised Russia that Mr Putin described in 2007 is gone, replaced by a country that has forced its way back on to the world stage with the invasion of Crimea, decisive intervention in Syria and western countries’ accusations of disrupting their elections.
At his confirmation hearing last month, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief executive, said Nato allies were right to be alarmed at a “resurgent Russia” — a phrase that has been echoing through western capitals.
Mr Putin has “staked out a position that thrives on asserting Russian interests in the world at the expense of the US,” says Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia programme at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. Moscow has “positioned itself as the challenger to the global liberal international order that the US has upheld and promoted the world over since the end of the second world war”, he adds.

Cautious Kremlin

But even amid this talk of Russian resurgence, the mood in Moscow is cautious — particularly about the disorder in Washington. In the US there may be a perception that Russia is revelling in Mr Trump’s election, but the rollercoaster ride of contradictory policy pronouncements and the failure to quickly establish top-level communication with the US president are upsetting previously high Russian expectations.
Russian officials had been cautiously optimistic that the US under Mr Trump could rebuild relations with Moscow but they have turned guarded and in some cases suspicious and frustrated, mirroring sentiment in European capitals.
“If we wanted, we could have taken advantage of the fact that they are not ready yet over there,” says one senior official in the Russian administration. “We could probably have gotten some kind of agreement to have Trump and Putin meet quickly, and they might have hit it off. But what then?”
Even arranging talks between Mr Tillerson and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bonn proved difficult, though a meeting took place on Thursday.
“It looks like the massive western media campaign against Russia has made contact with us so toxic that Mr Trump, a leader who was determined to make a new start with Russia, is now shying away,” the Kremlin official says.
Even beyond these difficulties, Russian observers say the west vastly overestimates Russia’s power and misinterprets its motives.
“It is not the goal of Putin’s foreign policy to become a new superpower or even to establish himself as the biggest dude on the block,” says Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the government-backed Russian International Affairs Council. “The Kremlin sees its actions much more as defensive and responsive against moves encroaching on Russia’s interests.”
However, some Russian ideologues are triumphant, believing that an irreversible decline of the west is lifting their country’s status and global weight.
“The golden age of the liberal international order is over,” says Natalia Narochnitskaya, a conservative nationalist former lawmaker and diplomat. She claims that many European citizens are disillusioned about the EU’s ability to serve the continent. “Putin, for them, is the only leader who dares raise the banner and openly, without excuses, declare that he will defend traditional values,” she says.
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A postmodernist Europe would fail to survive the challenge by other civilisations, Ms Narochnitskaya says: “Only together can Russia and Europe become one side of the global power triangle — Eurasia, the US and China.”

Tackling Nato

It was a long way to this self-assured attitude from Mr Putin’s 2007 criticism. Moscow started taking things into its own hands in Russia’s “near abroad” — the former Soviet republics that it sees as its rightful sphere of influence. Eighteen months after his Munich speech, Russia waged a week-long war with Georgia ostensibly to protect a pro-Russian minority in a breakaway region. It came only months after Nato’s Bucharest summit had issued a declaration that Georgia and Ukraine would become members.
Despite the shock over the conflict, the west tried to seek a new start in ties with Russia. The Georgia war had only been the first shot, however: in 2014, Moscow annexed Crimea while stoking separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine after what it saw as US-backed street protests toppled Viktor Yanukovich, Kiev’s Russian-leaning president.
The Ukraine conflict led to a full breakdown of Moscow’s relations with the west. But Mr Putin did not stop there. As the US and the EU tried to punish him with sanctions and isolation, he intervened in Syria, helping President Bashar al-Assad regain ground in the civil war and derailing US-led attempts to broker a political transition.
If the US intelligence community is to be believed, Moscow is preparing to reap the top prize. According to the assessment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Moscow meddled in the US election with an “influence campaign” of hacking and propaganda. Less than a month after Mr Trump’s inauguration, the resignation of Michael Flynn over the national security adviser’s lies about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador before taking office has further stoked fears in Washington of a Russian puppet master behind the US government.
Such concerns are fuelled by talk in Moscow of a “grand bargain” that Mr Putin could strike with Mr Trump. At a round table organised by state news agency Rossiya Segodnya late last month, political analysts said they believed Moscow and Washington could make a deal by respecting each other’s spheres of influence. Some Russian strategists suggest that resolution of the Ukraine crisis and co-operation in the fight against global terror could become bargaining chips in such a deal.
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After Flynn’s resignation, smiles are turning to scowls in Moscow
A senior Russian foreign policy official says the Trump administration’s attitude towards who carried the blame for the non-fulfilment of the 2015 Minsk agreement on Ukraine could help isolate German chancellor Angela Merkel in her hawkish stance against Russia. Alexei Chesnakov, a former Kremlin official who heads the Centre for Current Politics, a Moscow think-tank, says he expected the French election this spring to contribute to this shift because the rightwing candidates are more sympathetic to Russia.
He floats the idea that Ukraine was starting to resemble a “failed state” and could therefore be seen as a source of terrorism — a characterisation not shared by western capitals. “In that sense, it becomes part of the agenda for jointly countering international terrorism for the US and Russia,” he said.
Mr Kortunov believes that under a different leader Russia’s search for a new place in the post-Soviet world could have turned out more benign and the Ukraine conflict might have been avoided. But he says Moscow would still have run into disagreements over the enlargement of the EU and Nato.
Mr Putin has compared Moscow’s foreign policy and security moves to a Siberian bear that has no desire to leave its habitat. However, that habitat, or the area where Russia sees its national interests, appears to range vastly beyond the country’s borders.
In step with the intervention in Syria, Moscow has revived ties with almost every country in the region. Exploiting the US’s waning presence, Russian diplomats presented themselves as a dialogue partner for countries with contradictory interests, thus building a network including Nato member Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
As a result, no state will be able to bypass Moscow when resolving regional conflicts. Already, France and Italy are turning to Russia to help integrate Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan military strongman whom Moscow has cultivated, into a UN-backed political arrangement.

Asian pivot

Some of these moves are rooted in Russia’s deep misgivings about western-sponsored regime change in countries such as Libya and Iraq. “They are now getting involved themselves in order to keep the west from making more mistakes,” a European diplomat in Moscow says half-jokingly. “We like it, because we need them.”
Simultaneously, Moscow has jumped in to build ties with leading countries in Asia, the fastest-growing region: apart from its closer relationship with China, Russia is building friendly relations with Vietnam and India, in competition with the US, and wooing populist Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte. And Mr Putin is using the desire of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to settle the two countries’ territorial dispute to pull this most important US ally in Asia into his orbit.
These moves could put Russia in a key position in mediating conflict in areas such as the disputed South China Sea, or tension between China and Japan.
“Russia has its own post-imperial trauma, like many countries in Europe,” says Mr Kortunov. “A key priority for the Kremlin is therefore to bring Russia back as an important player.”
This return has paid dividends for Mr Putin domestically. Although polls show that many Russians think he is doing a poor job on the economy and are concerned over the direction of the country, a vast majority strongly back his assertive foreign policy.
And yet Russia faces constraints in its push for a return to the global stage. “Although we have seen several straight years of big increases in military expenditure, this has mostly gone into rebuilding capacities that had fallen into disrepair after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” says Ivan Timofeev, an assistant professor at MGIMO, the Moscow university where the foreign ministry trains diplomats. “In the long term, a superpower-style foreign policy is therefore absolutely unsustainable for Russia.”
For all the talk of a resurgent country, Russian experts are mindful that without strengthening its sluggish economy, Moscow’s push will be severely limited in the longer term. “There are examples in history of economically challenged nations making a big expansionist push and you could imagine that for Russia as well,” says Mr Timofeev. “But the economic and social fundamentals for a long-running, sustainable rise of the nation are not in place. We are not like China or India, for whom bigger global influence comes naturally with their growing economic clout.”
Even as Russia’s economy emerges from a two-year-long recession, the government, the central bank and independent economists all say growth will remain anaemic.
Mr Putin has proved a cunning tactician in exploiting opportunities around the world at limited cost to Moscow. Both western diplomats and Russian officials say there is no way Russia could do without the US or other western countries in its engagement abroad.
“They are seeking out opportunities . . . to insert themselves as a power to be reckoned with,” says Mr Rumer. “Yet it’s their insistence on being at the table and having a vote and a veto that makes it very difficult to move forward.”
With that approach, even Russian strategists doubt how much Moscow’s urge to play a role in so many locations will benefit the country in the long term. “If the assumption that the liberal international order will collapse is correct, there may be more opportunities for Russia in the ensuing chaos,” says Mr Timofeev. But he argues that is not the most likely scenario, as even challengers of the old order like China are copying its structures and institutions.
“If we end up with a reformed rather than a collapsing international order with a focus on development rather than security — then Russia will be marginalised.”
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German elections won't be game-changer for US or Russia

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Germany's new president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is a well-known critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. But that doesn't mean that Berlin will opt to turn its back on America in favor of Russia.
Former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his visit to Russia in 2016. Photo:
The victory of former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in the Feb. 12 German presidential elections didn't create a media sensation. Yet the Kremlin is now hoping for better relations between Russia and Germany. Shortly after the announcement of the results, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Steinmeier on his victory and invited him to visit Russia.
Indeed, at first glance, there are some reasons to believe that with Steinmeier’s presidency, Moscow and Berlin might alleviate their tensions and come up with a compromise. After all, the new German president is well known for his harsh criticism of Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Moreover, some media outlets labeled Steinmeier “the anti-Trump president.”
In response to a question about the growth of right-wing populism in Germany and throughout the world, Steinmeier denounced those who "make politics with fear." He referred to the nationalist Alternative For Germany party, supporters of Great Britain's exit from the European Union, and "the hate preachers, like Donald Trump at the moment in the United States." Furthermore, shortly after the U.S. presidential election, Steinmeier overtly expressed disappointment with the result.
"The result is not what most Germans would have wished," he said, as quoted by Bloomberg. "I don't want to sugarcoat anything. Nothing will be easier, many things will become more difficult."
However, ironically, Steinmeier has less power now as Germany’s president than during his tenure as the country’s foreign minister, primarily because the president of Germany holds very little executive power. Yet he is a well-experienced politician with a great deal of influence. The German president is seen as a moral authority with the responsibility of hosting foreign high-ranking officials and leaders. Legally, Steinmeier, not Merkel with her executive power, will be Trump’s and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s counterpart. That’s why this might benefit Russia more than the United States.
But Merkel, with her skepticism toward the Kremlin and the Trump administration, might be a sort of counterbalance in this delicate situation. She seems to be ready to be as tough as possible both with Trump and Putin if their policies will contradict the European values that Germany shares. For example, Merkel raised her eyebrows at Trump’s controversial ban on Muslims. According to her, this move contradicts the fundamental philosophy of international refugee assistance and international cooperation.
“Merkel has indicated that she will not play the patsy,” Foreign Policy wrote. “Upon learning on election night that Donald Trump would become the next U.S. president, she insisted that Germany’s relationship with the United States continue within the traditional parameters of the North Atlantic alliance, based on their common values of democracy, freedom and human rights.”
Thus, the situation around the Germany-Russia-U.S. triangle is more complicated, with everything depending on the specific moves of either Trump or Putin and the development of the civil war in Ukraine. In this environment, there is also no reason to underestimate (or overestimate) the role of the German president, given his political influence both inside and outside of Germany.
Although the German Constitution does not attribute particular executive powers to the country’s president, “the political weight of the office depends largely on the weight of the personality who occupies this position,” Dieter Boden, a former German diplomat and an adjunct professor of International Relations at the University of Potsdam, told Russia Direct.
“When Steinmeier takes over as Federal President in mid-March after his victory in the Feb. 12 election he can build on a [good] reputation of eight years of activity as German Foreign Minister,” Boden added.
“The international community will remember him particularly in his roles as one of the key negotiators on the Iran nuclear deal, as a very resolute mediator in the Ukraine conflict and as an untiring OSCE Chairman in 2016. His prime fields of interest include relations with Russia and the post-Soviet states, where he is known to have had well-balanced views including also on the political feasibility of sanctions.”
Despite the fact that Steinmeier won’t have as much power as he had during his tenure as Germany’s Foreign Minister, he is expected to remain closely connected to foreign policy matters, given his expertise and background.
"His predecessor Joachim Gauck established a guiding philosophy — "Germany is ready to be more active in world affairs" — and this might challenge Steinmeier also in his new job to interfere whenever he considers it necessary,” clarified Boden. “And he can do it with all the moral authority which his new office gives to him. Maybe, even this will encourage him to embark on a project, which his predecessor has not been able to accomplish — the project of a state visit to Russia.”
At the same time, Nikolay Vlasov, an associate professor of History and International Relations at St. Petersburg State University, argues the German president is rather a symbolic figure, much like the British Queen. He doesn’t rule the country but brings people together under his moral authority, which means he is not a decision-maker or a game changer.
Basically, the victory in the German presidential election is an honorary end of one’s political career
“In fact, he doesn’t have opportunities to influence domestic and foreign policy,” Vlasov told Russia Direct. “Basically, the victory in the German presidential election is an honorary end of one’s political career. There were specific cases when the President contributed to Germany’s ties with other countries through official visits. Yet, again, he doesn’t determine the foreign policy agenda.”
All this means that Steinmeier won’t have any impact on Moscow-Berlin relations. All the same, the fact that he left his position of Foreign Minister might have limited impact on Russian-German relations, concluded Vlasov. However, one should not expect sweeping changes, because Germany’s foreign policy is based on the principle of succession.
Pavel Koshkin is the Editor-in-Chief of Russia Direct. He has contributed to numerous publications, including Kommersant, the Moscow bureau of BBC and Russia Profile, specializing in politics, society, education and international affairs.
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Germany and Russia: Berlin’s Deadly Self-delusions

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There is a German word for nearly everything. An unquestioned lifelong self-delusion is referred to as a life-lie, a Lebenslüge. When it comes to Germany’s policies vis-à-vis Russia there are plenty of such self-delusions that drive Berlin’s foreign policy. This fact is more important given that Berlin heads the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which runs the two observer missions that are supposed to monitor the implementation of the Minsk II agreements in Ukraine. In January 2016, Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, laid out the priorities for the OSCE chairmanship — and they could hardly be more revealing. They indicate all that is wrong with the German approach to European security. Steinmeier seems to believe that the current insecurity in Europe is the result of a lack of trust stemming from a breakdown in communications between Moscow and Western nations. No wonder, then, that Germany’s emphasis is on dialogue to restore trust and ultimately make Europe secure again.
Unfortunately, this logic has it backwards. There is indeed a lack of trust. However, that lack of trust is a direct consequence of Russian aggression, not Western miscommunication. Approaching Russia with suspicion and mistrust — as many Eastern European nations do — is the only sane reaction, given that Russia has invaded a neighbor, annexed part of its territory, and tried to divide the rest of the country while threatening half a dozen other countries in Europe, all based on a “blood and soil” ideology.
Trusting an authoritarian regime is never a good idea to begin with, but in Europe’s current situation it would be outright foolish. Yet the topsy-turvy logic with which Germany approaches the Kremlin should hardly come as a surprise. It is the result of five self-delusions that plague German foreign policy.
“Both Sides”
There is virtually no statement by the German foreign office on Ukraine that does not urge “both sides” to honor the Minsk agreements and show restraint. However, always and equally requesting “both sides” to pull back and show restraint when one side clearly is the aggressor is by no means an act of impartiality. In fact, it belittles the aggression and calls upon the victim to essentially surrender parts of its territory. In calling for both sides to do the same thing, Berlin also gives the aggressor a free pass, accepting the gains he has made. Even after the Minsk agreements were signed and fighting continued, the German foreign ministry found it difficult to change its tone. If the German government faulted anyone, it always made sure share the blame equally.
“The West too has made mistakes…”
The most common refrain to be heard in Berlin is that “the West too has made mistakes” when it comes to its relationship with Russia. German politicians are referring here to their belief that Western governments did not pay enough attention to the Kremlin’s misgivings about NATO enlargement and that the deterioration of the relationship with Moscow is at least partly a result of the West’s misreading of or willful ignorance toward Russia’s interests in Eastern Europe.
There are two fundamental problems with this argument. First, it is by no means a transatlantic consensus that the West was simply too hard on Russia after the end of the Cold War. Many influential intellectuals, from Edward Lucas to Russian dissident Gary Kasparov, argue otherwise. To simply state that “the West too has made mistakes” is therefore nothing but an intellectual shortcut that obfuscates an honest consideration of the successes and failures of German policy toward Russia rather than facilitating that urgent re-examination. In addition, the claim is factually wrong. In fact, the West has done its utmost to ensure that Russia would view the enlargement of NATO and the European Union not as threat, but rather as the natural extension of Europe’s political unification. That is why, for instance, NATO created the NATO–Russia Council, and Washington and European capitals alike pushed for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization.
“…though Germany has not”
There is an important and unquestioned subtext to the assertion that the West too has made mistakes — German politicians are actually saying that Germany has made none at all. After all, it was Germany that all along pushed for an even more forgiving stance vis-à-vis the Kremlin. Berlin led the opposition against extending a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia and Ukraine at the NATO Bucharest summit in early 2008. After Russia invaded parts of Georgia, Germany refused to punish the Kremlin and instead put forward what it dubbed a “modernization partnership” only weeks after Russia had recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia in blatant violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and the six-point ceasefire the EU had just negotiated with the Kremlin. The modernization partnership was based on the assumption that more trade between Germany and Russia would provide the Kremlin with an incentive to play by the rules. The tool was devised in the tradition of “change through rapprochement,” an approach first tried under chancellor Willy Brandt. So when the Kremlin occupied and annexed Crimea, Berlin again refused to impose broad sanctions, instead waiting until Russian-backed separatists downed a Malaysian airliner. In fact, the German government never questioned the basic tenets of its so-called modernization partnership.
Even though this partnership has clearly failed to produce changes in Russian behavior, Berlin has doubled down. The German foreign minister and his allies still believe that, had the United States and the Eastern Europeans only followed Germany’s soft approach towards the Kremlin, some of the confrontations in recent years could have been avoided. Arguing that the West too has made mistakes, hence, is not an acknowledgement that Germany’s approach towards Russia might have failed. Rather, it is a criticism directed at the United States and Eastern European NATO members.
Moreover, all of this completely ignores the fact that Eastern European nations and Washington actually had followed the German approach since 2009. Under the leadership of Barack Obama, the United States used the much-vaunted “reset” to replicate Berlin’s approach towards the Kremlin, and Eastern Europe went along, albeit grudgingly. In essence, Germany is misreading both the Kremlin and its own allies.
“Treat Russia as an equal”
A few months ago, I debated a German member of parliament from the center-right Christian Democratic Union, the party of Angela Merkel. He argued that Washington had failed to treat Russia as a power of equal status, referring to president Obama’s statement that Russia is at best a regional power. This MP’s argument resembles that of many others in Germany’s foreign policy community. As the argument goes, the failure to approach the Kremlin as an equal has contributed to Russia’s geopolitical revisionism.
Ignoring the faulty premise for a moment, there is a deep irony to this line of argument. Germany’s Eastern European allies often and rightly feel that Berlin is not treating them as equals. Poland’s old and new government, as different as they are, actually agree on that. While Germany is happy to talk to Russia, Warsaw often finds itself relegated to the sidelines. In fact, Poland was intentionally kept out of the so-called Normandy-format, in which Berlin, Paris, Kiev and Moscow are supposedly sorting out the war in Ukraine. Germany could have instead pushed for the so-called Weimar triangle, wherein Poland, Germany, and France coordinate their foreign policies, to represent Europe in the talks with Russia and Ukraine. After all, Poland’s participation would have undoubtedly strengthened Europe’s hand. However, the German foreign office probably felt that the Polish government would have pushed too hard for the re-establishment of the status quo ante and made it more difficult to make the conflict go away quickly. The Polish grievance is often summarized by Polish intellectuals in fluent German: While Berlin is all too happy to talk to Russia, what it offers Poland is akin to reconciliation-kitsch, or Versöhnungskitsch.
“We need Russia to solve international crises”
The desire to have Russia treated as a geopolitical superpower finds another expression in the assertion that while the West might disapprove of the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine, we have no choice but to cooperate with Russia to manage crises elsewhere, be they in Syria or Iran.
It is certainly true that the Kremlin’s cooperation could often be helpful, but the question remains: Can the West justify sacrificing the freedom of Ukraine for the remote prospect of Russian cooperation in other places? Even worse, when what is sold as “Russian cooperation” is in fact an acceptance of the Russian position that Assad does not have to leave, no matter how many people he barrel-bombed? It is stunning how Russia has succeeded in selling the West on the idea of accepting the root cause of the civil war in Syria — the totalitarian Assad regime — as the war’s solution. That, in essence, explains why the Kremlin has ordered the Russian military to bomb all opposition to Assad. For Assad to be the smaller evil, he has to be the only alternative. Even in light of these facts, there is a growing chorus among German politicians willing to cut a deal with Assad.
Of Dialogue and Deterrence — Germany needs to learn how to play hardball
The German desire to pursue cooperation with Russia is deeply wired into Berlin’s foreign policy traditions. Ever since the introduction of the new Eastern policy or Neue Ostpolitik in the late 1960s, Germany has hoped to effect change in Eastern Europe by embracing Moscow. While that policy helped during détente, its contribution to the end of the Soviet Union is greatly exaggerated in Germany’s foreign policy circles. There’s a great irony in this argument: Though even the proponents of outreach to Moscow acknowledge that the new Eastern policy was essentially a contribution to regime change in Moscow, the self-proclaimed descendants of that policy always maintain that they do not want the regime to change, arguing that whatever might come next in Moscow could well be worse. In the same vein, Social Democrats want to dangle another carrot, hoping to sell Russia on the idea of a free-trade zone ranging from the Atlantic to the Pacific — even as the same party still frets about a free trade deal with the United States.
All this prompts the question: Why does German self-delusion in foreign policymaking matter? Germany is not the first or only country to maintain self-delusions in its foreign policymaking, but its geopolitical position renders its self-delusions particularly important matters for two reasons. First, Germany is chairing the OSCE at a critical juncture. Though no one can say for certain what Russia’s endgame in Ukraine is, the Kremlin is definitely hoping to undercut not only Ukrainian sovereignty, but the European security architecture as a whole. It does not accept the sovereignty of any former Soviet state, it disregards the principles laid down in the OSCE and the 1997 NATO–Russia Founding Act, it has withdrawn from the CFE (Conventional Armed Forces in Europe) Treaty and violated numerous others, and it seeks to institutionalize its veto power over Ukraine’s future by freezing the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
What would a freezing of the war in eastern Ukraine look like? The Kremlin clearly hopes to see the sanctions under which it suffers lifted without having to pull out of eastern Ukraine. Were it to succeed, it would constitute a tacit acknowledgement by Western powers that Russian forces would stay in eastern Ukraine, and the conflict would effectively be frozen. German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel voiced his support for such a premature easing of sanctions, hastening to add that this was his private opinion. Foreign Minister Steinmeier wants to begin this process by re-inviting Russia into the G7. So far, these voices have not carried the day, but now even the head of the sister party of Angela Merkel’s CDU has paid a visit to the Kremlin. Easing out of sanctions, even with continued Russian occupation of eastern Ukraine has become known as “decoupling.” Sanctions, it is said in Berlin, could be eased to incentivize further progress on Russia’s part. Yet decoupling sanctions would be the final and most important step towards freezing the conflict and would destroy what little leverage the West has over the Kremlin in a goodwill gesture destined to fail. When German policymakers argue for the removal of sanctions without a re-establishment of Ukrainian control over eastern Ukraine, they must realize that while Russia may be seeking a frozen conflict, it is Germany that would be doing the freezing.
That leads to the second reason why Germany’s self-delusions matter. Its constant display of goodwill toward Russia is often combined with lip service to NATO’s promise of common defense and the idea of deterrence. There is little reflection, however, on what deterrence would entail. Analytically, deterrence is the credible promise to disproportionately overreact. For deterrence to be credible, aggressions that would not trigger the promise of deterrence must be met with proportional responses. That does not mean that in response to the war in Ukraine, NATO should have intervened militarily itself. But it does mean that NATO should have done something proportional the moment little green men entered Crimea. Put differently, massive economic sanctions should have immediately followed. Instead, the Western powers — led by Berlin — chose to underreact. They dragged out the imposition of sanctions and only pulled the trigger after the Malaysian airliner was shot down by separatist forces, long after regular Russian units had made massive inroads into eastern Ukraine. When military aggression that challenges the foundation of Europe’s security is not met proportionally, why should the Kremlin ever believe that Berlin will keep its vague promise of deterrence? This is why Germany’s actual allies suspect that should little green men ever show up in the Baltics, Berlin will set up another Normandy-like format rather than mobilize troops.
Dustin Dehez is Managing partner at Manatee Global Advisors, an international strategy consultancy. He is a member of the Young Atlanticist Working Group of the Atlantic Council of the United States and the Young Foreign Policy Working Group of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation. His first book, Kalter Kaffee in Tiflis, was published by Random House in 2013 in Germany. Follow him on twitter @dustindehez.
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Turkey in the EU-Trump-Russia Triangle

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Dr. Nejat Tarakçı for Veterans Today
Geopolitician and Strategist
Trump, the president-elect of the United States, caused increased uncertainties both in his home country and around the world three months before he takes office. These uncertainties are centered on three main areas.
  • The first is whether the Trump administration will work in tandem with the structure called Finance Capital System which runs the world through multinational corporations including the FED, banks and insurance companies,
  • Second, whether the new administration will continue to make substantial contributions to the security of Europe against Russia’s threat in the context of NATO,
  • And third is how a possible change in relations with China will affect the security of the Pacific region.
The priority situation for Turkey and Europe is the second main area.
Institutions and Factors Affecting US Political Management Structure
The United States is governed by a two-chambered presidential system in which federal representatives are located. Both parliaments are formed by two political parties.
The system is controlled by a powerful, efficient and independent judicial power. The USA government, at the age of 240, eventually passed on to the present system after civil war and long-term turmoil. Since the Second World War, the United States has been the world leader in economic, military and cultural affairs. The country has two major economic crises in 1929 and 2008. The effects of the last crisis are still ongoing. The social problems created by income distribution disorder are increasingly growing in the USA. While the black-and-white distinction has gained momentum again, new discrimination signs appear for Latin and Hispanic minorities.
How and why is Trump Elected?
After it was reported that he fell behind Clinton on the polls, how Trump surprisingly won the election is still being debated. Let’s try to analyze the situation under historical preliminary information and current conditions. Despite its establishment in 1921, the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations), a derivative of the Finance Capital System, has become more active in the US administration system with the Jewish and Greek Lobbies since the 1980s.
In this regard, their role in the Congress (representatives, parliament, and senate) and presidential elections is widely acknowledged. It is impossible to deny the political influence of this new power that seized the USA government system. Due to the oppressive, imperative, global economic system that started in 1990, the governance of the countries, especially the USA and England, has been overtaken by multinational corporations rather than politics.
Today, these companies can still influence the governance of the USA and key countries in the EU. Al Gore, former USA president-in-chief, highlights this in his book The Future, published in 2013: In our world, the power of the state is increasingly being taken over by business, finance and media organizations. Governments take their decisions in such a way that they can see the interests of these institutions, which constitute the main funding source for political parties.
When you look at the management team that Mr. Trump is forming, it can be said that the USA will be in harmony with Finance Capital System and FED. At this point it is almost certain that the main scenario change will be the USA’ plans and strategies in the Middle East. To what extent will the expectations of the centers that support Trump in election be met? How will this affect the EU-USA relations? Trump is an American businessman. For this reason, he should be expected to focus on pragmatic solutions and clear results.
But in doing so, will Trump, unlike Obama, use his military power directly and more effectively, or will he focus on solving it with more peaceful, more compromising and allied strategies? Time will show. Why did the system prefer Trump instead of Clinton? The answer to this question is important. And it seems that the answer is related to Obama’s policies against Israel, which he has been pursuing over the last eight years in the Middle East and where Clinton was expected to continue if elected. Which are;
  • Approaching Israel more cautiously,
  • Opposing their practice against international law,
  • Avoiding overt political support for international issues,
  • Opposition to new settlements in Jerusalem and making Jerusalem the capital,
  • Not approving the violence in Gaza,
  • Despite Israel’s violent opposition, signing a nuclear deal with Iran,
  • Supporting Palestinian independence,
  • Avoiding the use of direct military force in the Middle East etc.
Why is Israel an Indispensable Country?
Israel has been favored by all the previous USA administrations thanks to the Finance Capital System, which the Jewish lobby controls at a significant level, and protected by a special alliance.  It can be said that as long as the political influence of this supreme imperialism continues, this privilege of Israel will continue in the USA.
Israel is the only country to receive advanced technology transfers, especially in the field of defense industry, as well as receiving unrequited financial assistance from the United States. In the next decade, it has been decided that Israel will receive military assistance of $ 37.5-40 billion. This is the greatest amount of aid in American history.
Although Israel is not a NATO and EU member, it has all the privileges of any member. Until today, all complaints and sanctions brought against the UN Security Council about Israel have been stopped by the United States. Israel, which has nuclear weapons, escapes UN control. In summary, the US sees Israel as an indispensable country for its interests in the region. Due to the support provided to Trump, it can be expected that the USA will be more compassionate and supportive in relations with Israel during the Republican period.
What are Israel’s Expectations from the US?
The proportional advantage that the widespread war in the Middle East has provided for Israel has led to the prominence of its economic priority projects. The first priority is to deliver natural gas in eastern Mediterranean to foreign markets as soon as possible. In this regard, negotiations on the Turkish route continue. It may be the case that Trump supports these negotiations to be put into action.
It is one of Israel’s main anticipations that the nuclear deal is suspended and re-embargoed so as to narrow Iran’s regional influence. In order to make Jerusalem the capital of Israel, the USA embassy in Tel Aviv is expected to be moved to this city.  After the cleanup of the ISIS from Syria and Iraq, the new political structure in the region will take place in the direction of Israel’s will.
How Did the US Give the Green Light to a Kurdish State?
Trump’s Security Advisor Michael Flynn explained that a Kurdish state would be established in the region. In this context, the first questions that come to mind are in what region, by which population and under whose protection this state will be established. The current situation in the geography of Iraq suggests that this new Kurdish state will be built on the basis of the independence of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government. In this case, the PKK issue for Turkey will enter a new process.
What will be the PKK elements, 73% of which are Turkish citizens? They will either remain in the Barzani region or end terrorism by integrating with the system, or they will continue to export terror to Turkey in the same position. In this case, the Barzani government will have to cooperate with Turkey on terrorism. Otherwise, there may be a serious crisis between the new Kurdish state and Turkey.
If the Kurdish state is established, who will control Mosul and Kirkuk? More importantly, the USA will have to safeguard the Kurdish state, which it declares to be established, for many years. If terrorist activities against Turkey continue in this period, Turkey and the USA may have to clash. The Kurdish state may also become a source of trouble for Iran. Because the Kurdish state under US control can assume the role of buffer against the influence of Iran over Iraq and Syria.
This is one of the main strategic aims of the new Kurdish state for the United States. As for the ongoing civil war in Syria, the US has chosen Syrian Kurds as a partner, as it has in Iraq. The Syrian Kurds are currently being used by the USA against the ISIS. Only if the ISIS danger ceases to exist, Syrian Kurds could actually be used as a buffer to narrow the influence of Turkey and Iran in the region. This strategy is in line with the policy of stopping Arab sectarian fanaticism with a Kurdish card, which Israel has been pursuing since many years.
Expected Scenarios in Syria after ISIS
When the conflicts in Syria and Iraq come to an end, the new order will affect a period of at least 50 years ahead. How will the economic, strategic and political structure of the region be? At the heart of these scenarios are two main economic projects that affect political and military construction.
  • The first is the safe exploration, extraction and transportation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean basin starting from the Turkish border to the Nile Delta, to foreign markets. Let’s specify the requirements for this to happen:
  1. Under the auspices of Russia, the new Syrian state to be established on the coast of Syria to end hostility with Israel
  2. Israel to cooperate with Russia, which has become permanent in the region, in the energy and security fields
  3. Lebanon’s removal from Iran’s political and military influence
  4. For the development of Gaza through energy, Gaza to be given a special status through the UN or an independent, non-regional country (Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, Finland etc.) to mandate the city
It is clear how difficult it is to fulfill these requirements because of the ongoing conflicts.
For this reason, Israel, without waiting for its own extracted gas, has accelerated its projects to offer it to foreign markets.
  • Secondly, for the Gulf Countries (BAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait), Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas to flow into the eastern Mediterranean. Let’s specify the requirements for this to happen:
  1. Determination of new political borders in Syria and Iraq
  2. And these new political divisions’ cooperation with the states which controls the eastern Mediterranean basin, Israel, Russia, Lebanon, Egypt and the new Syrian state emerges as the main condition.
The expectations in the second scenario group are at least as hard as the first ones. The region is experiencing chaos due to the lack of mutual agreement and insecurity between two opposing nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia and regional geopolitical players like Turkey and Iran. Post-ISIS scenarios are still uncertain.
The Dangers Awaiting Turkey and the Way Out
Turkey has got out of the strategic gap and uncertainty with the Euphrates Shield Operation, which started on August 24, 2016, has completed three months. Turkey’s goals and objectives in this operation do not overlap with the United States. On the contrary, there is a silent agreement with Russia and consequently the Assad regime.
Hence, Putin has personally confirmed that the last missile attack on the Turkish tank did not originate from Russia. Turkey has announced that it has no other purpose than to establish a safe zone on the southern border. However, the USA, which appears to intend to form a Kurdish belt in the south of Turkey, is following a strategy that plans to bypass Turkey in a new political and military power balance shaped by recent developments in the region. This strategy pushes Turkey, a NATO member, towards a security center based in Russia.
This strategy is thoroughly erroneous. Because, if the US continues the strategies that it implements and applies against Russia on a continental scale, it cannot do so without Turkey, which controls the Turkish Straits and balances Russian naval forces in the Black Sea. As long as Turkey has military power in Syria, it is important that it acts coordinately with the regime through Russia and Russia.
In parallel with this, in the context of large energy projects in the region, Turkey’s strategic cooperation with Israel in a serious and reassuring manner can fix USA-Turkey relations. Turkey should be prepared for various pitfalls that would disrupt relations with Russia. Russia’s greatest fear is the closure of the Straits in case of a crisis and conflict with Turkey. Hence, following the downing of the plane incident, Russia, in the face of hostile explanations and practices, made official statements of concern about the closure of the Straits.
The current situation provides Turkey with two strategic opportunities, time-wise.
  • First, in the framework of the right of self-defense provided by the UN Convention, conducting resultant military operations in the Kandil region in coordination with Iran
  • The second is the unification of the TRNC with Turkey. Because, in the so-called solution negotiations conducted under the supervision of the UN, despite the substantial amount of land and population concessions, the Turkish side is still being blamed. The work of separating Cyprus from Turkey has accelerated. As for the TRNC, after the Denktash administration, the TRNC has fallen asleep. It has not been able to become a state in 33 years. Neither has it made an independence anthem, it has not changed the British colony court buildings, nor has it created a homogeneous society by embracing those who came from Turkey. Today, when the relations with the EU are suspended, it is about time for the TRNC to integrate with Turkey. It is the right time to actualize the fact that the Turkish and Greek Cypriots cannot live together in Cyprus, which has been written for many years and is widely known.
Mr. Tarakçı was born in 1949. He is retired at the naval captain rank from Turkish Naval Forces in 1999. He became Ph. Dr. in naval history in 2004. But he is also studying in the geopolitics, security and defense matters. He worked for NATO between-1996-1999. Instructed International Organizations, International Security Problems, Turkey and Its Neighbors, Geopolitics and Geo-strategy, Public Administration, Conflict Prevention and Crisis Management, Turkish Politics, Foreign Policy Strategies are the courses instructed in Ege, Yaşar and İzmir Economy Universities in the period of 2000-2006. Mr. Tarakçı has also tasked in Erasmus Program of EU as instructor in Ege University. At the moment he is instructor of Turkish War College. Mr. Tarakçı has 9 books issued in Turkish.

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Why Germany and the US are in for a troubled relationship

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For once, (also) a question of values

Now officially running for re-election in 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated President-elect Donald Trump with an elegant warning. "Germany and America are bound by common values: democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.
It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments” she said. Her Deputy Chancellor and likely opponent at the ballot box Sigmar Gabriel was more direct: “Donald Trump is the trailblazer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement”, he lashed out.
Donald Trump succeeded where few did before: in uniting forces across the German political spectrum. Irrespectively of who will eventually win the federal elections in the fall of 2017 and when it comes to US-German relations, the mood across German politics is one of doom and gloom.
And yet, Given Donald Trump’s comments throughout the electoral campaign, it should come as no surprise that one specific political force did celebrate Mr. Trump’s victory. The rightwing and nationalist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) rushed to congratulate the President-elect and heralded his victory as an omen of similar developments to come for Germany. Expect AfD to constantly refer to the Trump administration as its role model on a variety of issues. By doing so, the far-right will make President Trump even more toxic in the eyes of all other political parties.
The German foreign policy establishment across is also deeply troubled by the views put forward by a number of individuals set to take up key posts in the incoming administration. These ranged from overtly filo-Russian and apologetic of torture to seemingly unprepared to understand the subtleties of international relations. It is no exaggeration to report that, on more than one occasion, both German and American foreign policy wonks from both sides of the aisle repeatedly admitted having to search on Google to find out more about new appointees.
Foreign policy analysts in Washington and Berlin know each other extremely well, speak the same language, and share similar views. They now also share their fears toward the new Trump administration and the unknowns it brings along with it.
Public opinion and elite views are aligned for once. Recent polls suggest that over two-third of German citizens expect US-German relations to deteriorate under a Trump administration. Other polls suggest that, had they been given the right to vote in the US elections, only 4% of Germans would have voted for Donald Trump. There exists indeed a broad dislike of Donald Trump across German society that cuts across all socio-demographic groups and well beyond the most banal anti-American rhetoric. The views that candidate Trump expressed throughout the electoral campaign were seen as misogynous, xenophobic, racist, nationalist and ignorant by the overwhelming majority of Germans. Worse still, they represented everything that history thought them to abhor, reject and fight against. Even accounting for possibly more moderate language and policies once he will be in office, Donald Trump will find it impossible to fully repair the damage he already caused.

An evolving leadership role for the reluctant hegemon

Thanks to its position of strength as Europe’s largest economy and political heavyweight within the European Union, Germany has over the last decade increasingly been flexing its diplomatic muscle outside the Union’s borders. Following the Brexit referendum and Britain’s increased isolation within the European Union, strong and long-standing ties between Berlin and Washington were reinforced. So much so that talk of a new “special relationship” was heard more than once across the Atlantic. On the Eastern front, Germany entertains a deep and often ambiguous trade relationship with the Russian neighbour. Such economic interdependence allows Berlin to exercise more leverage on Moscow than any other European capital. Conversely, it also exposes Germany to accusations of appeasing irresponsible Russian behaviour. Something that Berlin has to deal with when engaging with its increasingly restive Polish partners.
Notwithstanding Germany’s more traditional diplomatic engagements, a relatively new feature of Germany’s diplomatic posture is a renewed focus on the Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Leaving aside the long-standing and often challenging relationship with Ankara, Berlin has over the last couple of years dedicated increasing diplomatic attention to the eastern Maghreb and the Sahel. Conscious of the massive domestic repercussions that the mismanagement of the 2015 - 2016 migrant and refugee crisis had for her popularity, Merkel had to step up the country’s engagement in dealing with these challenges.
She was therefore a strong backer of the EU Trust Fund for Africa at the Valletta summit in late 2015. One year later, the Chancellor’s trip to Mali, Niger and Ethiopia as well as her hosting of Chad and Nigeria’s heads of state in October should be understood within the same framework. As it should also be interpreted the shift on greater aid conditionality with a focus on migration and security issues pushed by the EU on that very same month.
Partly stemming from its more assertive diplomatic posture, perhaps the most fascinating transformation that Germany is witnessing in terms of its international identity pertains to its military. To begin with, the new white paper on German security policy presents a degree of sophistication in terms of strategic thinking not seen in the past.
At the same time, both the number of troops and expenditure for the Bundeswher in the coming years are set to increase for the first time since the end of the Cold War. At around 35 billion Euros, we are still far from the approximately 60 billion Euros that would be required for Germany to reach the 2% NATO target, but a new trend is in motion.
Within this context, Germany is increasingly active on both its eastern and southern flanks. Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons based in Estonia already patrol the Baltic states’ airspace and Germany is now reading to deploy up to 650 troops and heavy weaponry to lead a NATO battalion in Lithuania. At the same time, Berlin is arming and training Peshmerga fighters in Iraq and deploying up to 650 troops to Mali. All of this to loud cheers of approval from its NATO partners. This state of affairs would have been unthinkable in both domestic and international terms until a few years ago. When it comes to its military, a German paradigm shift is well under way.

Forecasting a more transactional relationship

With a Trump administration in place, the relationship between Berlin and Washington is set to change. The nature of this will significantly shift from a shared understanding of the values underpinning the global liberal order to a far more transactional one. Like it or not, the most powerful country in the world and the dominant power in Europe will have to work together. Four issues emerge as key areas for cooperation and, at times, disagreement between the two. First of all, Germany and the US will have to step up cooperation on intelligence. International terrorism, a bellicose Russia and cyber warfare demand it.
Both Germany and the US have no time to waste on this issue. Luckily, the working relationship between the intelligence communities on both sides of the Atlantic is deep and long-standing. This state of affairs should somehow help in managing the transition from the current to the future White House. The Trump administration will leverage its intelligence superiority and, in return for sharing its intelligence, it will demand greater German compliance with its demands.
Germany will find itself in a conundrum. On the one hand, it needs the unmatched intelligence capabilities that only the US can provide. On the other hand and due to historical reasons, its legislation is far more restrictive than America’s when it comes to data collection, privacy issues and mass surveillance. Expect a long domestic struggle to take place between those stressing the need to cooperate with America and those highlighting the importance of curbing the powers of intelligence agencies.
Next in line is trade. President-elect Donald Trump made no secret of its distaste for both existing and planned trade agreements. Yet, he also consistently advertised himself as a dealmaker. And no American businessman worthy of his name could afford not to do business with Europe’s powerhouse. While pandering to the rust belt constituencies that helped him get elected, President Trump will also want to be seen as a master of the global economy. In this respect, a three-pronged approach could be expected. First of all, Trump will throw a bone to his supporters by dumping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As a second step, he will signal a less flexible foreign policy posture to Mexico by pushing for a (limited and mainly cosmetic) revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Finally and after having frozen them for most of his term in office, he will re-start negotiations “on his terms” with the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Unlike in the field of intelligence gathering, when it comes to trade the European Union is an equal of the United States. By this time, President Trump will better have established a working relationship with Berlin. Failing to do so will make it nearly impossible for Washington to achieve its objectives. Berlin and Washington will also have to find common ground on dealing with Eastern Europe and Russia. President-elect Trump has repeatedly signaled his intention to re-set America’s relationship with Russia. Indeed, he went as far as suggesting that the world should recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea as legitimate. In turn, Vladimir Putin and the Russian media have been staunch supporter of Trump throughout his electoral campaign and openly rejoiced for his ultimate victory.
Berlin, instead, has been very firm in his position toward Russia condemning what it sees as an illegal occupation of Crimea and the sponsoring of terrorist and military activities in the Donbass region. Germany is the driving force behind the Normandy Format talks (also involving France, Russia and Ukraine). It also plays a crucial role within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when it comes to the work of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine. And it is fundamental in keeping alive what is left of the Minsk II Protocol as well as rolling over the European Union’s sanctions toward Russia. President Trump could try to bypass Germany and strike a deal with Russia. But given the depth of the economic and trade relationships between Berlin and Moscow, a sustainable settlement will inevitably have to take into account German geopolitical and economic interests.
Last but certainly not least; Germany’s role within the European Union will significantly influence the relationship between the two sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, when Americans have to talk to Europeans, they first fly to Berlin. Only later an on their way back to Washington, they stop over in Brussels. However, in European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker’s words, the challenge now is that “we must teach the President-elect what Europe is and how it works.”
Indeed, even intellectually sophisticated American foreign policy analysts have a rather rudimentary understanding of the dynamics underpinning the relationships between the European institutional triangle and the national capitals. An inexperienced and insular Trump administration will need a great deal of time and effort to “get” Europe. One common misunderstanding, for instance, revolves around the idea that “the German Chancellor can tell other European governments what to do”. This is a gross misconception.
While nobody underestimated Germany’s role as primus inter pares in Europe, the multi-layered governance mechanisms underpinning the functioning of the European Union rend such a modus operandi simply impossible. Berlin will always have an interest to play up its influence in Europe vis-à-vis the Americans. But Washington has to come to terms with the fact that, while Berlin is an indispensable interlocutor in Europe, it is not a sufficient one.


All main German political parties with the exception of the far-right view an incoming Trump administration with dismay and apprehension. Foreign policy experts as well as mass public opinion feel the same. Germany feels therefore obliged to increasingly take on the reluctant leadership role that its hegemonic economic, political, diplomatic and potentially military position trusts upon it.
Within this context and as the preeminent global and European powers respectively, America and Germany will have to agree on a shared strategic vision. One can therefore forecast a far more transactional relationship than the one witnessed with the Obama administration. Intelligence sharing, transatlantic trade, the Russia - Ukraine relationship and Germany’s leadership role within the European Union are the four key issues upon which the relationship will evolve.
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A Storm Is Brewing Over Europe

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Storm clouds are once again gathering above the eurozone. In coming months, its continuity will be threatened by events in Europe and the United States. Germany, the largest political and economic player in Europe, will try to keep the bloc together. But the crisis could be too big for Berlin to handle, especially since some of the actors involved see Germany as a part of the problem rather than the solution.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently described the European Union as "a vehicle for Germany." He and members of his administration argue that Germany's industry has benefited significantly since the introduction of the euro in the early 2000s. The boon to Germany, the argument goes, is that the common European currency is weaker than the deutsche mark would be; the result is more competitive German exports. Trump was not the first U.S. president to criticize Germany's trade surplus, the biggest in the world. But he was the first to suggest the United States could take countermeasures against German exports.
Some of Germany's own eurozone partners have also accused the country of exporting too much and importing too little, a situation that leads to low unemployment in Germany and to high unemployment elsewhere in the currency area. Their charges, however, do not focus on the value of the euro (which is set by the European Central Bank) but on Berlin's tight fiscal policies, which restrict domestic consumption and limit Germans' appetite for imports. The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund have asked Germany to increase investment in public infrastructure and raise the wages of German workers.

Addressing the German Question

Indeed, the European Union is a vehicle for Germany, but for reasons that go well beyond trade. Many of Europe's current political and economic structures were designed to resolve the question of Germany's role in Europe. Situated at the center of the North European Plain, the largest mountain-free territory in Europe, Germany has no clear borders. This means that its neighbors in the east and the west can easily invade, a fact that has traditionally given German leaders a sense of constant insecurity. In addition, before the country's unification in the 1870s, the Germans had little in common other than language. Their location at the heart of trade routes in Central Europe and their access to many navigable rivers allowed the Germans to develop multiple economic centers. The Holy Roman Empire, which ruled over German lands, lasted for 10 centuries precisely because the emperor had limited influence on the affairs of the hundreds of political entities that made up the empire. Seeing a strong, united Germany in the 21st century makes it easier to forget that the country has traditionally had strong regional identities and powerful centrifugal tendencies that worked against national unity.
Between the mid-19th and the mid-20th centuries, German leaders sought to solve the country's geopolitical challenges through war, with disastrous consequences for Germany and for the rest of Europe. After World War II, Germany built a federal system where wealth is distributed between states, under the supervision of the federal government. This was coupled with a corporatist economic model that incorporates the economic elites into the leadership structure and strong social safety nets that prevent social upheaval. This entire social-political structure relies on an economic model that is heavily dependent on exports.
To a large extent, the European institutions were imposed on Germany. A weak and occupied West Germany saw membership in the European Economic Community (the European Union's predecessor) as a way to peacefully return to the international community after two world wars. The political and economic integration of Western Europe was actually a French idea encouraged by a great deal of U.S. pressure. After Germany's reunification in 1990, the creation of the eurozone followed a similar pattern. Paris saw the introduction of a common currency as a way to bind France and Germany so close together that another war between them would be impossible. At the time, the idea of another Franco-German war did not seem as far-fetched as it does now, and to a large extent losing the deutsche mark was the price that Germany had to pay for reunification.

Solving Problems and Creating New Ones

Europe's economic and political integration enabled Germany to achieve some of its main geopolitical goals. It reduced the likelihood of another war on the North European Plain by creating a co-leadership of the Continent with France. Even after the French economy started to show signs of decay, Berlin made sure to keep Paris involved in continental decision-making. European integration also opened markets from Portugal to Romania, and from Finland to Cyprus, for German exports. All of this was possible while Germany's membership in NATO kept Berlin's defense expenditures modest.
But the euro's arrival deprived some of Germany's main trade partners of the ability to devalue their currencies to compete against their neighbor in the north. At the time the bargain seemed fair, since countries in Mediterranean Europe were suddenly able to issue debt at Northern European interest rates, which they did enthusiastically. Access to cheap debt made many countries in the eurozone delay the introduction of structural reforms in their increasingly less competitive economies.
The euro may not have been a German idea, but Berlin made sure that it did not threaten its interests. The European Central Bank was modeled after the Bundesbank, with its mission of low inflation (a German obsession after the hyperinflationary 1920s) and with no explicit mandate to foster economic growth. The eurozone was created as a monetary union without a fiscal union. No mechanisms to transfer resources from Europe's wealthy north to its relatively poorer south, or to share risk among their financial sectors, were introduced. To accept greater risk sharing, countries in the north require their southern partners to completely surrender their fiscal policies to technocrats in Brussels. This is something that countries like Greece could be pressured to accept but that is unacceptable for countries such as France or Italy.

A Perfect Storm in the Making

These shortcomings became apparent during the past decade. Europe's economic crisis, and the austerity measures that followed it, led to the emergence of nationalist, populist and anti-establishment political forces across the Continent. Some are critical of the European Union, while others want to get rid of the eurozone. The economic decline of France and Italy left Germany without reliable partners to redesign either one of them.
Every year of the past decade has been a test of the eurozone's resilience, but 2017 could be the year when the bloc's very survival is endangered. France will hold presidential elections in two rounds in April and May. Opinion polls say the National Front party, which has promised to hold a referendum on France's membership in the eurozone, should win the first round but be defeated in the second. The Brexit referendum and the U.S. presidential election, however, have shown that polls sometimes fail to detect the deep social tendencies driving populist movements.
Moreover, a recent scandal involving France's main conservative presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, has damaged his image. Should the center-right fail to reach the second round of the elections, millions of conservative votes will be up for grabs. Some would probably migrate to centrist parties, attracted by their promise of economic reform. But many would go to the far right, seduced by proposals to increase security, impose tougher rules on immigration and restore France's national sovereignty. A win by the far-right candidate — a direct threat to the eurozone's survival — cannot be ruled out.
In Italy, things are even more complex, as two of the three most popular political parties want to leave the eurozone. Italian lawmakers are using the need to reform the country's electoral law as a pretext to delay elections. But even if Parliament ends its mandate in early 2018, Italy's threat to the eurozone will be delayed rather than averted. Unlike France, where the two-round electoral system was designed to prevent extremist parties from reaching power, Italy's proportional system means that Euroskeptic forces stand a real chance of entering the government. And no matter the outcome of the election, Italy's massive public debt (which, at roughly 130 percent of GDP, is the second-highest ratio in the eurozone after Greece) will remain a ticking bomb for the currency area.
The mere announcement of a referendum on eurozone membership in France or Italy could be enough to precipitate the collapse of the currency area. A run on Southern European banks could happen before the referendum even took place if people feared that their savings could be converted into national currencies. People in countries such as Italy, Spain or Portugal could transfer their savings to havens in Northern Europe, hoping to be given German marks instead of Italian lira, Spanish pesetas or Portuguese escudos.
To make things more complicated, the Greek saga is not over. Greece's creditors are debating whether the terms of the bailout program are realistic and whether Athens should be granted debt relief. Ten years into the Greek crisis and three international rescue programs later, Athens remains a danger for the eurozone. The main concern is not Greece's debt per se, because most of Athens' debt is in the hands of institutional creditors such as the IMF, the ECB and the European Union's bailout funds, which means that a Greek default can be contained. The problem is that a Greek exit from the eurozone could lead to a contagion effect that could hurt the likes of Italy, Spain or Portugal. Some have argued that the eurozone would actually be stronger without Greece in it, but the price of finding out whether that's true could be too high.
Should France or Italy be taken over by Euroskeptic forces, or should Greece precipitate yet another crisis in the eurozone, Germany's instinctive reaction would be to seek accommodation with its partners in the currency area to protect the status quo. But depending on the magnitude of the crisis, officials in Berlin could be forced to make preparations for a post-eurozone world. This could involve returning to the deutsche mark or, as some German economists have proposed, creating some kind of "northern eurozone" with the likes of Austria and the Netherlands. But a strategy that makes sense from a financial point of view could be risky from a geopolitical perspective, since any moves to distance Germany from France hide the germ of a future conflict between the two. No matter what Berlin does, it has to ensure that political ties with Paris remain as strong as possible. Germany holds general elections in September, and events in the previous six months would have a direct impact on the electoral strategies of the main political parties.

A Fragile Eurozone

The threats to the eurozone would be easier for Germany to tolerate if things were quiet in the United States. But Trump's protectionist rhetoric is encouraging nationalist forces in Europe. France's National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has even bragged that the U.S. president is actually copying proposals she made five years ago.
The coming storm in the eurozone does not necessarily have to destroy it. The U.S. government could decide to avoid a trade war with its allies in Europe. Moderate forces could win the general elections in France and Italy, and Greece and its creditors could find yet another last-minute agreement. But the fact that the eurozone has reached a point where the entire system can collapse because of an election, a bailout negotiation or measures taken by a foreign government speaks volumes of its fragility.
Even if the doomsday scenario is averted in 2017, the relief may last only until the next election. In Europe, as in the United States, there are millions of voters who feel that the alleged benefits of globalization have not reached them, and who believe that their economic problems could be solved by putting an end to the free movement of people, goods and services — the very principles upon which European integration was built.
The rhetoric from the U.S. government and the rise of nationalist forces in Europe pose a fundamental threat for an export-dependent economy like Germany's. They also threaten the continuity not only of the eurozone but, depending on how events unfold, also of many of the political and economic structures that Europe built after the war. The supranational eurozone is a half-built house in a neighborhood where national sovereignty has been eroded but not completely erased. The irreconcilability of this dilemma could take the currency bloc from its current fragmentation to outright dissolution.
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The shift in US-Germany relations has implications for Russia | Russia Direct

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In fact, Russia and Germany see Trump’s ascent to power differently. While Germans would prefer Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office, Russians are among the few people who seem to be happier with the Republican Trump. While Germany raises eyebrows at Trump and all his moves and expects the worsening of relations with the U.S., many Russians hail the new U.S. president and expect to improve relations under Trump. At the same time, the Kremlin might be interested in worsening relations between Germany and the U.S. In this scenario, disappointed with Trump, Berlin could turn back to Moscow.

During his political rise, Stephen K. Bannon was a man with no fixed address

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Stephen Bannon at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 23. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
In the three years before he became Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon lived as a virtual nomad in a quest to build a populist political insurgency.
No presidential adviser in recent memory has followed such a mysterious, peripatetic path to the White House. It was as though he was a man with no fixed address.
He owned a house and condo in Southern California, where he had entertainment and consulting businesses, a driver’s license and a checking account. He claimed Florida as his residence, registering to vote in Miami and telling authorities he lived at the same address as his third ex-wife.
(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
Here's what you need to know about the man who went from Breitbart News chairman to Donald Trump's campaign CEO before his appointment as chief White House strategist and senior counselor.Here's what you need to know about the man who went from being Breitbart News's chairman to Trump's campaign CEO and now to chief White House strategist. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
At the same time, he routinely stayed in Washington and New York as he engineered the expansion of Breitbart News and hosted a live Breitbart radio program. By 2015, Bannon stayed so often at Breitbart’s townhouse headquarters on Capitol Hill that he kept a picture of a daughter on a mantle piece, beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Bannon told a friend that year he was living in multiple cities, including Washington, New York, London and Miami, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.
The issue of Bannon’s legal residency has been simmering since last summer, shortly after he became chief executive of Trump’s campaign. The Guardian reported in an Aug. 26 story that he was registered to vote at a then-vacant house and speculated that Bannon may have signed an oath that he was a Florida resident to take advantage of the state’s lack of state income taxes.
In California, where Bannon had lived and owned property for more than two decades, income tax can exceed 12 percent.
Bannon has not responded to repeated requests by The Washington Post to discuss the matter. Two Post reporters sought to independently verify his residency claims, using a wide array of publicly available information.
They obtained utility bills, court records, real estate transactions, state driver reports and the checks he wrote to pay municipal taxes in California. They interviewed neighbors, spoke with landlords and tracked his Breitbart-related activity.
In the digital age, when most Americans leave a clear footprint of their whereabouts, Bannon left a meandering trail filled with ambiguity, contradictions and questions. The Post found that Bannon left a negligible footprint in Florida. He did not get a Florida driver’s license or register a car in the state. He never voted in Florida, and neighbors near two homes he leased in Miami said they never saw him. His rent and utility bills were sent to his business manager in California.
Bannon’s former wife occupied the premises, according to a landlord and neighbors.
At the same time Bannon said he was living with his ex-wife, she was under investigation for involvement in a plot to smuggle drugs and a cellphone into a Miami jail, a law enforcement document obtained by The Post shows.
The Post learned that state prosecutors in Miami have an active investigation into Bannon’s assertions that he was a Florida resident and qualified to vote in the state from 2014 to 2016. In late August, investigators subpoenaed Bannon’s lease of a Coconut Grove home and other documents. They also contacted the landlords of that home and another that Bannon leased nearby, and sought information from a gardener and handyman who worked at one of the homes, according to documents and interviews.
Because state laws do not clearly define residency, making a false registration case can be difficult.

Bannon is seen as President Trump meets with business leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 23. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
California connection
A former investment banker and Hollywood producer, Bannon lived in California when he took a turn toward politics nearly a decade ago.
He had a condo in Los Angeles and a house just to the south in Laguna Beach, in Orange County. In 2010, he told Orange County election officials that he wanted to become a “permanent absentee voter” and have all ballots mailed to his Laguna Beach home.
In 2011, Bannon produced and directed a political documentary about Sarah Palin for the Victory Film Project, a company in Sarasota, Fla. He is listed as a manager of the company in Florida corporate records.
In March 2012, with the death of founder Andrew Breitbart, Bannon became executive chairman of the Los Angeles-based Breitbart News, which was expanding its operations to Washington.
Bannon was still a resident of California, records show. In the November 2012 elections, he voted in Orange County by absentee ballot. That same month, he renewed his California driver’s license for five years.
But in his subsequent travels across the country, his living situation became more complicated. The details gathered by The Post create uncertainty about where exactly he was spending the bulk of his time.
On Feb. 9, 2013, Bannon and Diane Clohesy, his former third wife, signed a lease application for a three-bedroom house on Opechee Drive in a lush Miami neighborhood with palm trees and Spanish-style homes.
Bannon signed as “applicant,” and Clohesy signed as “applicant’s spouse.”
The two were married in 2006, when Bannon was 53 and Clohesy was 36. They divorced in California in 2009. She had moved to Florida in 2008, “starting a new life in Miami,” Bannon said in court papers during the divorce. But the two remained in touch, and she worked on three political documentaries he directed in 2011 and 2012.
Bannon told his new landlords that he would be splitting his time between California and Florida, according to interviews The Post conducted with the property owners. Bannon and Clohesy both signed the two-year lease, records show.
The lease application said Bannon was “relocating from California.” But Devin Kammerer, the real estate agent who represented Bannon and Clohesy, said he never met Bannon in person, and only sent him listings by email.
“It was Diane who made the decisions about where she wanted to be, and she’d send over listings to Steve for his approval,” Kammerer said. “Diane was very clear on what she wanted.”
The $4,900 monthly rent was a big jump for Clohesy, who declared on the lease application that her most recent apartment had cost her $950 a month, documents show. But by his own account, Bannon could afford it.

(Obtained by The Washington Post)
He stated on the application that he earned $750,000 a year as chairman of Breitbart News Network, a figure that has not been previously reported. He also earned $270,000 as executive chairman of Arc Entertainment, a film distribution company based in Santa Monica, Calif.
In addition, Bannon received about $100,000 in salary that year as part-time chairman of the Government Accountability Institute, a new nonprofit charity in Tallahassee, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. Bannon, two Breitbart writers and other conservative activists had launched the organization a year earlier and it produced reports and books that were promoted by Breitbart. Bannon claimed he worked 30 hours a week at GAI, according to IRS filings.
Just weeks after signing the Opechee Drive lease, Bannon launched “Breitbart News Sunday with Stephen K. Bannon,” a three-hour program broadcast live Sunday nights from SiriusXM studios in Washington.
In May 2013, Bannon opened an account in his name for municipal sewer and water service at the Opechee Drive residence, documents show.
The utility account is one of the few public indications of Bannon’s presence in Florida. But Bannon told utility officials to mail the bills to the office of his business manager on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, Calif., according to documents obtained through Florida public records laws.
Four neighbors told The Post they do not recall seeing Bannon at the house.
“I never saw him,” said Steven Chastain, who lived a few doors away on a nearby street.
“He wasn’t living there,” said Barbara Pope, a longtime resident who often walked her dog on Opechee Drive. “I would have recognized him.”
At the time Bannon was sharing the lease with Clohesy in Opechee, she was apparently involved with another man. Neighbors said they repeatedly saw a man they could not identify at the house.
She filed for a restraining order against Jose A. Cabana in 2012. He filed one against her in May 2013, court records show. She was granted a two-year injunction against him and his complaint was dropped after he failed to appear in court. Cabana was charged with cocaine distribution in November 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He could not be reached for comment.
In October 2013, Clohesy became ensnared in an undercover investigation of a jail guard suspected of smuggling drugs and other contraband to another man, a friend of hers in the Miami-Dade County Pre-trial Detention Center, according to an arrest warrant for the jail guard first reported by the the Miami New Times.
Investigators eavesdropping on a phone call between Clohesy and the inmate heard them arrange for her to deliver a “pop tart” — code for a cellphone — along with several ounces of marijuana to a prison guard, the warrant said. Clohesy, who was under surveillance, later met with the guard in a parking lot and handed over the marijuana, the phone and $700 in cash, the warrant said.
Clohesy was confronted by authorities and agreed to cooperate. She told investigators she had known the inmate for more than a year and “maintained a relationship with him through jail visits, correspondence and telephone conversations.”
Efforts to reach Clohesy were unsuccessful. Her brother, Declan, provided The Post with a statement Friday that Bannon had provided “emotional or financial support” to help her recover from drug addiction and depression.
“Steve is a caring and compassionate man and Diane is blessed to still have him in her life,” the statement said. “We appreciate the media respecting my sister’s privacy at this early stage of her recovery.”
Neighbors of the Opechee Drive home said they remember Clohesy vividly, in part because she had a steady stream of visitors, some of them disruptive. Four neighbors told The Post that they had a community meeting with police to complain about noise at the house and cars speeding from the premises at late hours.
Police records show that officers went to the Opechee address at least three times over several months in 2014. The officers were responding to reports about disturbances, including loud music. In one case, a woman at the home called police around midnight to express fears about an ex-boyfriend who was shining a bright light into the windows. Her name is redacted in the report.
Beatriz Portela, a real estate agent who represented the Opechee landlords, said she also received a call and text messages from neighbors who were anxious about troubling incidents at the house, including speeding vehicles and a car crash. “They were super upset,” Portela said.

(Obtained by The Washington Post)
A roving life
On April 2, 2014, more than a year after Bannon signed the lease on the residence in Coconut Grove, he registered to vote in Florida and listed the Opechee Drive address as his legal home. Bannon did not have to show an ID to register. He provided the last four digits of his Social Security number to verify his identity.
One of the allures of Florida is its zero income tax rate for in-state residents. The Post was unable to determine what state Bannon claimed as his primary residence for the purpose of income tax.
Accountants advise people who work in multiple states to carefully document the number of nights they spend in Florida and maintain records of travel, housing, even of meals. Registering to vote is considered one indication of residency, as is a driver’s license. Under state law, new residents must apply for a license within 30 days if they intend to operate a vehicle.
Phillip Sroka, a partner at the accounting firm of Morrison, Brown, Argiz and Farra in Miami, said he advises clients who split their time in multiple states to take care to document their presence in Florida for more than six months. That includes airline tickets, restaurant receipts and utility bills.
In an interview with The Post, Sroka said suspicions are raised when individuals have their bills sent outside the states where they claim their residences.
“It gets a little sketchy when you accept employment elsewhere,” he said. “Where it gets a little on the line and subject to interpretation is where you have a lot of other business dealings elsewhere.”
As 2015 approached, Bannon continued his roving life. He rented out his Laguna Beach home and, in January 2015, bought a townhouse as a second home in Pinehurst, N.C. The deed lists Bannon’s mailing address at his money manager’s office in Beverly Hills.
On Feb. 18, 2015, Bannon ended the water and sewer service at Opechee Drive and switched the service to Onaway Drive, less than a half mile away in Coconut Grove, records show. Five days later, Bannon changed his voter registration to Onaway Drive.

Bannon was registered to vote at this house on Onaway Drive in Miami from February 2015 to August 2016. (Obtained by The Washington Post)
The Opechee house was left in disrepair, according to an email between the landlord and Bannon and interviews with the landlord.
Padlocks had been placed on interior doors — or the doors had been removed altogether. A hot tub was destroyed.
“[E]ntire Jacuzzi bathtub seems to have been covered in acid,” the landlord wrote in the February 2015 email to Bannon.
“I’m out of town,” Bannon replied. “is there any way u can talk with Diane and sort things out ???”
The damage was estimated at more than $14,000, according to an accounting by the landlords, who kept the $9,800 security deposit from Bannon and Clohesy.
Kammerer, their real estate agent, said he was troubled by the damage.
“I would not work with them after that,” he said. “I would not refer them again as clients of mine.”
Around this time, Bannon was becoming a fixture at the Breitbart News townhouse location in Washington, nicknamed “the Breitbart Embassy,” hosting parties, meeting with journalists and staying overnight.
In a Bloomberg Businessweek profile in October 2015, a reporter described interviewing Bannon multiple times in January and February at the Breitbart townhouse in Washington.
The article, headlined “This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America,” described the building as a “14-room townhouse that [Bannon] occupies.”
“Ordinarily Bannon’s townhouse is crypt-quiet and feels like a museum, as it’s faithfully decorated down to its embroidered silk curtains and painted murals in authentic Lincoln-era details,” the article said.

Bannon hosts New Hampshire primary coverage on the radio from Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
On Oct. 26, 2015, SiriusXM announced that Bannon’s weekend radio show would expand its live broadcasts to weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. from studios in Washington and New York. Donald Trump was a guest on the inaugural show Nov. 2.
Five months later, Bannon shut off sewer and water service at the Onaway address in Miami. The house remained uninhabited for months.
Three neighbors interviewed by The Post said they were confident Bannon had not lived at the home.
“I often saw Diane,” said Joseph “J.L.” Plummer, a prominent Miami resident who lived next door and was a city commissioner for nearly 30 years. “I never saw him.”
In mid-August, Bannon became chief executive of the Trump campaign. As he was assuming control, Bannon changed the address on his Florida voter registration records. On Aug. 19, he signed an oath that he now lived at the home of a longtime business associate in Nokomis, Fla., in Sarasota County.
The questions about Bannon’s residency emerged Aug. 26, when the Guardian wrote that Bannon had been registered to vote at a vacant house — the Onaway address in Miami.
The local NBC station in Miami reported that the state attorney’s office had requested Bannon’s voter records from county election officials.
At least two people filed complaints about Bannon with the Florida Department of State, claiming he had committed voter fraud by asserting he was a resident, documents show. In October, the department said the complaints did not merit an investigation.
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That month, Bannon registered to vote in New York from a Manhattan condo overlooking Bryant Park and later cast an absentee ballot in the presidential election. Because he was registered in two places, he was later removed from Florida’s voter rolls.
Under Florida law, it is a third-degree felony to provide false information on a voter registration application. It is punishable by up to five years in prison. First-time offenders are rarely given more than probation, something that could also lead to the loss of a security clearance.
Officials from the State Attorney’s Office for Miami-Dade County, which is led by an elected Democrat, declined to provide details about their probe into Bannon’s residency claim. In denying a Post request for documents about the investigation, officials cited confidentiality rules for “active criminal investigative information.”
Spokesman Ed Griffith said, “At this point it is not over.”
But proving wrongdoing in Bannon’s case could be difficult because state law does not clearly define residency, according to an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
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the five key battleground areas

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"I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from," he said. "And nobody even knows where they come from."
As for the German chancellor, she reacted to the president's hugely controversial travel ban with the following statement: " 
"I have made it clear once again that the fight against terrorism does not justify a general advance against certain countries and people with a certain belief.”

Overall aim: Try and hold the relationship together

Prof Glees, an expert in German politics at the University of Buckingham, said the White House visit would be "make or break" for Mrs Merkel.
"There will be huge pressure from Trump's backroom guys to chum up to Frau Merkel," he said. "America needs a big friend in the EU and Britain, for obvious reasons, can't be that friend any longer.
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Donald Trump - Google News: When Donald Trump meets Angela Merkel: the five key battleground areas -

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When Donald Trump meets Angela Merkel: the five key battleground areas
Angela Merkel faces a "make or break" meeting with Donald Trump on Tuesday in which she is under pressure to bury the hatchet with the president, or risk plunging US-Germany relations to a new low. Mr Trump and Mrs Merkel have already clashed with the ...

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