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Opinion: Water off a duck's back

German Chancellor Merkel has a lot of experience dealing with political egomaniacs. During her meeting with US President Donald Trump, that experience could come in handy, says DW's Miodrag Soric.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets brasher the longer he is in power. He has even compared today's democratic - or even staid - Germany with its Nazi past. But Chancellor Angela Merkel has brushed aside his invective as if she were matter-of-factly explaining a minor aspect of physical chemistry to a class of schoolchildren.

Nor was Merkel intimidated when Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland's ruling ultraconservative Law and Justice Party, accused the EU of being led by fiat from Berlin. And she maintained her poker face when President Vladimir Putin denounced Western sanctions as unfair. "He's living in his own world," she said at the time.

The chancellor is 'looking forward to' her DC visit

And then there's Donald Trump and all the things he has said about her in the last months: Merkel was ruining Germany; there would be riots; his German friends were leaving Europe, so horrified were they at Merkel's refugee policy.

But Dr. Merkel has not taken the bait there either, dryly saying that she is looking forward to the personal meeting between the two leaders. Trump's criticisms seem to have had no effect. In the lead-up to her visit to Washington, DC, Merkel has lowered expectations to the point that many will consider a handshake in front of the White House to be a success in itself.

Soric Miodrag Kommentarbild App

DW's Washington correspondent Miodrag Soric

Keeping Washington on point

The chancellor is staying pragmatic in advance of her visit. Too much is on the line. A trade war between the EU and US would be a great burden on the global economy. A weakening of NATO, along with American isolationism, would end the current world order, with unforeseeable consequences. A US rejection of the Paris Agreement on climate change would spell disaster for Africa. A surrender of common values would undermine Western credibility. Trump's antipathy towards the EU will only cause Merkel to defend the European project all the more. And get her own way, too: One of her strengths lies in how frequently she is underestimated.

Merkel, the down-to-earth leader of Europe

To paraphrase American political speak, Chancellor Merkel is also looking to make the world a better place. However, she is not looking to grandstand. She is not one to exaggerate, nor does she fashion herself as anti-Trump. She is inclusive and, as such, the uncontested leader of Europe that she doesn't ask to be. Power-hungry she is not. Every statement of hers is carefully considered.

Trump will be closely watched during their time together for whether he will again say something brash, whether he can negotiate without uttering threats, and whether he represents the USA with dignity.  Even if the president does embarrass himself, however, Merkel will go on as if nothing were amiss. Because Trump is not the first difficult case she has had to deal with.

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