President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Alex Wong/Getty Images

Merkel’s Comeuppance is Europe’s – and the World’s – Misfortune

No one who was paying attention to Greece's predicament three years ago should be surprised by the position that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Europe find themselves in today. But only a dangerous fool would celebrate.

JOHANNESBURG – One of the most common mistakes European leaders make in interpreting US President Donald Trump’s hostility toward America’s traditional allies, or the alacrity of his administration’s efforts to blow up the international order, is to assume that all of this is unprecedented. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“My philosophy is that all foreigners are out to screw us, and it’s our job to screw them first.” Thus argued John Connally, then-US Secretary of the Treasury, in 1971, in his successful bid to convince President Richard Nixon that the time had come to punish Europe by pulling the plug from the Bretton Woods system.

Likewise, Trump would certainly agree that, “balancing the requirements of a stable international system against the desirability of retaining freedom of action for national policy,” the US wisely “opted for the latter.” That was Paul Volcker, then the president of the New York Federal Reserve, referring to Nixon’s decision in a speech seven years later. The future Chair of the US Federal Reserve further declared that a “controlled disintegration in the world economy …[was] a legitimate objective for the 1980s.”

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