Obama praises Merkel as 'model' leader
US president Barack Obama has praised German chancellor Angela Merkel as a “model” leader as he prepares to hand the White House to Donald Trump.
Speaking in Berlin on Thursday (17 November), Obama said: “I could not have asked for a steadier, more reliable partner on the world stage.”
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He praised her for showing a “humanitarian response” and “compassion” to the mass influx of refugees in Germany, despite it being a “very difficult” political challenge.
He said she led the German people on a story of “incredible achievement” that they could be “very proud of” and that German society, under her stewardship, had become a “model” for the wider world.
“I try to make it a rule not to meddle in other countries’ politics … [but] if I were German, and I had a vote, I think I’d support her”, he said.
“In terms of core values, her integrity, her thoughtfulness, her doig her homework knowing her facts, looking out for the interests of the German people first, but realising that part of good leadership means engaging with the wider world … I think she’s been outstanding”, he said.
Obama’s praise of Merkel comes ahead of German elections next year, with the chancellor expected to announce in the coming days that she will run for a fourth term.
It also comes amid expectation that Merkel will, in future, have to take on Obama’s role as the champion of Western values on the world stage after Trump ran a campaign marked by racist, sexist, and nationalist rhetoric and by misinformation.
Merkel, speaking alongside Obama in the German chancellery, said it was “not the appropriate” venue to announce her re-election bid.
She said she was willing to work with Trump, but only on the basis of “shared values … democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights”.
She also pledged to uphold values in her foreign policy on Russia and on Syria.
She said she would continue to “raise” her differences with Russia over its assault on Ukraine.
She also ruled out making a realpolitik deal on Syria to keep Russia’s ally, president Bashar al-Assad, in place for the sake of stopping the war and the flow of refugees.
She said he had caused his own people “untold suffering” and added that “I do not see him as an ally”.
Obama spoke at length of the need for the US and EU to remain a voice on the global stage that spoke up for dissidents, for the poor, for international rules and norms, and for political solutions to conflicts.
“If that voice is absent, if that voice is divided … we will be living in a meaner, harsher, more dangerous world”, he said.
He voiced “optimism” that Trump would moderate his style when he came to power due to Trumps’ remarks when they last met and due to the “solemnity” of the presidential office.
“If you’re not serious about that job, then you probably won’t be there long, because it will expose your problems”, he said.
He said Trump’s “extraordinarily unconventional” campaign had caused “perhaps the biggest upset in modern political history”.
He also said he had warned Trump that the methods he used to mobilise his supporters would not work to keep the country together and to conduct a serious foreign policy once he took power.