Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud: Trump keeps Proving His Ignorance To The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud

May 30 at 5:20 PM
President Trump escalated his feud with Berlin on Tuesday, even as Germany’s leader and Trump’s own spokesman tried to defuse the conflict, which has sent tremors through Washington’s core postwar alliances.Before the presidential tweets began flying early Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the importance of Germany’s ties to the United States. But she pointedly did not back down from earlier comments about Europe’s need to rely on itself rather than its friends.

The dispute started as Trump sped through meetings in Europe last week and appeared to leave a trail of bruises in his wake. It heated up after Merkel did little over the weekend to hide her disappointment with Trump’s refusal to commit Washington to the climate change treaty. And it was further inflamed Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. Washington time when Trump fired a white-hot shot straight at Berlin’s glass-and-concrete chancellery.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” Trump wrote in his early-morning tweet.

The fight has had few obvious practical consequences so far. But Merkel’s meetings this week — first a chummy meeting with India’s leader on Tuesday and then a sit-down with the Chinese prime minister on Wednesday — were bracing reminders of the trade ties being forged outside the United States as Washington moves toward a sharply more nationalist and protectionist agenda.

Play Video 1:15
White House says Trump and Merkel’s relationship is ‘fairly unbelievable’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel “get along very well,” during a press briefing on May 30, and said her comments about increased European independence are “what the president called for.”(Reuters)

Merkel refused to give ground Tuesday, even as she sought to ease the dispute with a rhetorical hug.

“Transatlantic relations are of paramount importance,” Merkel said alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin. “What I did was merely to point out that in light of the present situation, there are yet more reasons that we have to take our destiny in Europe into our own hands.”

The Modi meeting was planned long before the dust-up with Trump. But the cheerful body language between the two leaders was difficult to miss.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said to Merkel, smiling widely, as both leaders made positive comments about a European Union-India trade deal in the works.

German officials — who say that the United States remains Germany’s most important international ally and an important partner whose friendship they want to maintain — feel that Trump has prioritized relations with authoritarian nations such as Saudi Arabia instead of democratic allies. Many were shocked when Trump declared in Riyadh that “we are not here to lecture” the mostly unelected assembled leaders — and then blasted European allies in Brussels for not spending enough on defense.

That led Merkel to conclude that she needs to advocate a sharply more pro-European agenda at home ahead of September elections, one ally said. She said Sunday at a beer-hall political rally that Europe can no longer fully rely on others, a message clearly about Washington, even if it was aimed largely at her own voters.

“It was mostly to say we have to strengthen Europe. It was not anti-Trump,” said Norbert Röttgen, a close Merkel ally who is the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of Germany’s Parliament.

“You have to explain to your voters what we make of the experience of the last days,” Röttgen said. “Trump, he is an unprecedented president. He calls into question by the way of his behavior, by what he is saying, by what he is not saying, the foundation of this alliance, and you have to give an answer to that. And the answer of the chancellor is that we have to bring into this alliance, not against this alliance, but into this alliance, a stronger German hand.”

With Germany’s elections drawing closer, Merkel has been forced to turn her attention to her own voters — most of whom loathe Trump and staunchly oppose increasing defense spending, one of his key demands. She is seeking a fourth term in office and has rejected most of Trump’s criticisms as baseless.

Even before Trump’s victory last year, Merkel was increasing defense spending, pushing up the budget by $27 billion over the next three years. That would almost double current levels — but it would still be dwarfed by the $664 billion the United States spends every year.

Now Merkel needs to convince German voters that defense increases are in their own interest, rather than a response to Trump. In a preview of election-season arguments, leading Social Democrats said Monday that Merkel should have openly opposed Trump from the start rather than trying to work with him at first.

“Merkel needs to put some distance between herself and Trump, who is exceptionally unpopular in Germany,” said Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in northern Germany.

But there are practical limits to any German split from Washington, Dirsus said. Germany is not militarily independent and is far from becoming so. And the United States remains an important trade partner.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that there was no dispute between Trump and Merkel.

“I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said.

But Europeans are growing weary of the message gap between Trump and the rest of his circle. They are still searching for which side to give greater weight — and last week’s trip tipped the balance toward the president.

“Europeans think they are now being treated worse by Trump than countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The bilateral strains mean that the United States has, to some extent, lost the trust of one of Europe’s most pro-American leaders. The German chancellor, the most powerful politician in Europe, grew up in East Germany, and her upbringing there has long been credited for her staunch support for closer European-U.S. ties.

“Given her experience with the Cold War, Merkel has long upheld and defended American ideals. But the belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” Bierling said.

Noack reported from Berlin.

Berlin Truck Attacker Shot And Killed In Milan Italy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

ISIS-linked news agency releases video of Berlin attacker swearing allegiance to the radical group

Suspected Berlin attacker killed in Milan
 
Tunisian migrant Anis Amri was shot and killed in Milan early on Dec. 23, after a massive manhunt. The 24-year-old suspect of the Berlin Christmas market attack shot a police officer in Italy before he killed in a shoot-out. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
December 23 at 10:39 AM
BERLIN — The suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack was shot dead Friday by an Italian police trainee after an identity check in Milan, ending an international manhunt but raising new fears as an Islamic State video purported to show the attacker calling for more bloodshed in Europe.The 24-year-old Tunisian, Anis Amri, was killed following a dramatic encounter in the Piazza I Maggio in the Sesto San Giovanni area outside Milan, after a two-man patrol stopped him for questioning around 3:15 a.m. on suspicion of burglary.One of the officers requested his identification. Amri responded by pretending to fish in his backpack for documents. Instead, he pulled a gun, shooting one officer in the shoulder.Amri, who spoke Italian, then ducked behind a car, shouting “poliziotti bastardi” — police bastards. The second patrolmen — trainee Luca Scatà — fired back, killing Amri, according to Italian officials.

“He was the most-wanted man in Europe” said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti. “There is absolutely no doubt that the person killed is Anis Amri.”

In Germany, Federal Attorney General Peter Frank said fingerprints confirmed Amri was the man killed. But German and European authorities grappled with how Amri — who Italian authorities say traveled by train through France — managed to slip out of Berlin and make it all the way to Milan almost three days after he was named as the prime suspect.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday thanked Italian authorities, while adding “the Amri case raises a number of questions . . . We will now press ahead and look into in how far state measures need to be changed.”

Hours after the shootout, the Islamic State-linked news agency, Amaq, released a video the purports to show Amri swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Speaking in black-hooded windbreaker on Berlin bridge, only 1.5 miles from the German chancellery, he called on Muslims in Europe to rise up and strike at “crusaders.”

“God willing, we will slaughter you like pigs,” he said in the video, whose date and location was not given but looked like it was filmed in winter weather.

He added, “to my brothers everywhere, fight for the sake of Allah. Protect our religion. Everyone can do this in their own way. People who can fight should fight, even in Europe.”

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed, but previous material released by Amaq has been credible.

Earlier, a statement carried on Amaq described Amri as inspired by the Islamic State.

In Oueslatia, Amri’s bleak home town in Tunisia, news of his death had reached his mother, five sisters and three brothers, who until the end held hopes that the German authorities were after the wrong guy.

His 30-year old brother Walid Amri sounded distressed and was struggling to speak over the phone. Women were wailing in the background.

“This is a very difficult time for the entire family,” he said, before his voice broke.

While Amri’s death ended the hunt for the suspect who drove a truck into a teeming Christmas market on Monday, killing 12 and wounding dozens, it also raised a whole new set of questions.

Amri appeared to travel right under the noses of European authorities, through a circuitous route.

After leaving Berlin, Amri is believed to have traveled by train through the French city of Chambery and appears to have stopped in Turin, Italy, before arriving in Milan, said Alberto Nobili, coordinator of the anti-terrorism department at the district attorney’s office in Milan. Milan police say they have surveillance video placing Amri at Milan’s train station around 1 a.m.

German officials said the investigation would accelerate toward possible accomplices and the route Amri took to escape Berlin. “If there are others who are guilty or accomplices, we will hold them accountable,” Merkel said.

Nobili said Italian authorities were sharing ballistic information with the Germans to ascertain whether the gun used to shoot the Italian police officer was the same one used to slay the Polish driver whose truck Amri is believed to have hijacked on Monday before slamming into the Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding dozens.

His death in Italy also raised serious questions about the handling of the case by German authorities. German investigators only uncovered their single biggest clue — his wallet with identification left in the truck’s cabin — the following day after the attack, suggesting the delay may have facilitated his flight from Germany.

“We need to increase international collaboration against terrorism,” Gentiloni said.

Minniti said he had phoned the wounded Italian officer, Cristian Movio, and Scatà, an agent-in-training. Already, Facebook sites and other social media sites were popping up, including ““give Luca Scatà a medal” and “Luca Scatà world HERO.”

“Thanks to him Italians can have a Merry Christmas,” Minniti said.

By heading to Italy, Amri was, to some extent, retracing his steps. He had first arrived in Europe in April 2011 on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and spent four years in jail in Sicily, where Italian officials believe he was radicalized.

The news of Amri’s death came as German police said they had thwarted yet another terrorist attack planned against a shopping mall and arrested two brothers from Kosovo.

Authorities detained the brothers, aged 28 and 31, after receiving an intelligence tip-off, according to North Rhine Westphalia police. Security at the Centro Mall in the western German city of Oberhausen has been beefed up.

Amri had a criminal record in Europe and his native Tunisia, where he was accused of hijacking a van with a gang of thieves. Italian authorities jailed him in 2011 for arson and violent assault at his migrant reception center for minors on the isle of Sicily.

There, his family noted, the boy who once drank alcohol — and never went to mosque — suddenly got religion.

He began to pray, asking his family to send him religious books. The Italian Bureau of Prisons submitted a report to a government ­anti-terrorism commission on Amri’s rapid radicalization, warning that he was embracing dangerous ideas of Islamist ­extremism and had threatened Christian inmates, according to an Italian government official with knowledge of the situation. The dossier was first reported by ANSA, the state-run Italian news service.

The Italians tried to deport Amri but could not. They sent his fingerprints and photo to the Tunisian consulate, but the authorities there refused to recognize Amri as a citizen. The Italians, officials there say, could not even establish his true identity. Italy’s solution: After four years in jail, they released him anyway — giving him seven days to leave the country.

He had previously known links to Islamist extremists, and German efforts to deport him also failed because Tunisia had initially refused to take him back.

In Germany, the case was already having serious repercussions — with talk of pushing through stricter legislation on the deportation of migrants, particularly those with criminal records. The Germans are especially seeking to deport North Africans who have claimed asylum, and whose countries of origin have refused to take them back.

Merkel said Wednesday she had earlier spoken on the phone with Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi.

“I told the president that we have to significantly speed up the return process and continue to increase the number of returnees.” she said. “We can be relieved at the end of this week that an acute danger has ended. The general threat of terrorism, however, continues to exist, as it has for many years.”

Pitrelli reported from Rome. Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed to this report.

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