Daily briefing

Europe aghast at Moscow puppet show

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Who's the boss. Source: Imago / TASS

How do you say, “give me my country back” in Russian?

We saw a new world order loom like an iceberg at the meeting of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. The Russian leader emerged victorious at a press conference which was historic for all the wrong reasons. Trump needed to address major issues with Putin. Instead, the US leader preferred Putin’s story of events on election interference, over input from his own intelligence officials. There was no movement on Crimea, none on Syria and none on nukes.

Trump also ignored Europe. Leaders here had feared that Putin and Trump were united in opposing European interests but at the press conference, they only mentioned easing “migratory pressure,” while Trump backpedaled on his vehement opposition to Nord Stream and Germany’s support for the pipeline project last week. The reduced pressure might be good news for Germany’s economy and energy needs, but the fact that it took Putin to convince him to back off – rather than Germany – should be unsettling.

Mystifyingly, Trump elevated Russia, an enemy, to an equal, despite the major disparity in their economies and powers. That insistent support will have done lasting damage to trans-Atlantic relations. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ comment that Berlin can “no longer completely rely on the White House” is a major understatement. But it’s worse for eastern European countries close to Russia, which aren’t likely to have to wonder whether they count on support from Washington in future. Moreover, Trump’s conflation of spending on energy and trade with spending on NATO remains deeply problematic.

Meanwhile European leaders are busy defending their countries’ interests. Today they sign JEFTA, the trade pact between the EU and Japan, known as the cheese for cars deal as it lifts tariffs on both products. It’s the biggest deal negotiated by the bloc so far and creates the world’s largest open area for trade.

And in Beijing, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk found a new rapport as both blocs fend off US tariff disputes. The two sides said they are seeking to uphold a “free trade and multilateral order.” That embrace is all the more surprising given that, at last year’s summit, the EU and China had so little in common they didn’t even issue a joint statement. How much has changed in a year.

Speaking of bad turned good, Deutsche Bank took investors by surprise with a strong second quarter. Minutes after the statement hit trading desks, shares in the bank surged 7 percent. Investors had a long dry spell with the embattled bank’s numerous fines, lawsuits and monitoring by regulators. But leave the bubbly in the fridge for now; that long-hoped-for turnaround at Germany’s largest bank is yet to come. Warm vodka, anyone?

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