The centre cannot hold

There is an interesting article in Der Spiegel that suggests that Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel’s attempt to isolate and weaken President Donald Trump may have run out of steam. Back in late May, at the aftermath of the G7 summit in Sicily, Chancellor Merkel told a German audience that Germany and the EU, indeed the wider Western world could no longer rely on the USA for leadership. The centre, she suggested, could no longer hold …


… and it appeared that she intended to double down on that theme at the forthcoming G20 summit in Hamburg. In fact, Der Spiegel says, she called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for help. Why not? After all he had stood with her at the G7 meeting. His foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland had just delivered what was, in many respects, a pale imitation of Chancellor Merkel’s remarks, say that Canada could not rely on the USA any more and would have to take on greater responsibility in the world and so she expected that Trudeau would join her in condemning America’s unilateral withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement. But, that article says, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel had actually thought that Canada’s young, charismatic prime minister, 40D8F8FA00000578-0-image-a-46_1495988488317Justin Trudeau, could be counted among her reliable partners. Particularly when it came to climate policy. Just two weeks ago, at the G-7 summit in Sicily, he had thrown his support behind Germany. When Merkel took a confrontational approach to U.S. President Donald Trump, Trudeau was at her side … [but] … by Tuesday evening, things had changed. At 8 p.m., Merkel called Trudeau to talk about how to proceed following Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. To her surprise, the Canadian prime minister was no longer on the attack. He had switched to appeasement instead.”

What happened?

Der Spiegel says that “even before Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that evening in the White House Rose Garden, it had become clear in Berlin that they would miss their first target. Led by the Italian G-7 presidency, the plan had been for a joint reaction to Trump’s withdrawal, an affirmation from the remaining six leading industrial nations: We remain loyal to Paris … [and] … Suddenly, though, Britain and Japan no longer wanted to be part of it. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want to damage relations with Trump, since she would need him in the event of a hard Brexit, the Chancellery surmised last week. And given the tensions with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t put his country’s alliance with the U.S. at risk. In other words: Climate policy is great, but when it comes to national interests, it is secondary.” The G7 was, suddenly the G3 after the Canada, Britain and Japan backed away ~ leaving just France, Germany and Italy to “isolate” America.

Canada, comme de habitude, talked big but there’s nothing that Canada can bring to the table because it is, quite simply, an American client, and when President Trump says “Jump!” Prime Minister Trudeau asks “How high, boss?” … even to the extent of being Screen-Shot-2017-02-15-at-2.13.30-PMused as a prop in a domestic photo-op designed to promote the president’s daughter. MacLean’s magazine said that “The resulting image of him smiling in this absurd tableau presents him as biddable, even Trump’s patsy. It is difficult to picture, say, Angela Merkel being asked to do the same. Trudeau’s Washington visit would trigger much media commentary and criticism about how the prime minister extended his “feminist” credentials to Trump, a man who appointed only four women to his cabinet. But Trudeau has long used the “feminist” mantle as his political currency. What we witnessed in Washington was him exhausting it. And this photograph provides proof.” So, DAs8kGZXUAE5j1AChancellor Merkel should not have been surprised. prime Minister Trudeau has brought Canada “back” to its accustomed role, as former Minister John Manley said of a country that wants to “sit at the [big] table and every time the waiter comes with the bill excuse ourselves and go to the washroom.” Yes, indeed, “Canada’s back,” alright: back to freeloading and hoping that no one will say anything rude about it in public.

The centre that Chancellor Merkel might have thought (wished) she had build has crumbled, Canada is not a partner in her quest to make the West somewhat more self reliant, somewhat less dependent on one indispensable nation. Justin Trudeau says a lot but does nothing.



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