German chancellor Angela Merkel told a crowd of 2,500 in Munich that she is now “the leader of the free world,” and the European Union (EU) could no longer depend on the support of either Britain or the United States. She added the EU must control its own fate. Merkel delivered the message immediately following the departure of President Donald Trump from the G7 summit.
Merkel is known for being quiet and non-dramatic, which made her statement startling to many. Trump clearly underestimated the will of Merkel, who is a physicist and has often surprised male leaders with her supreme intelligence and political strategy.
She set a stellar example of leadership at G7 with her ability to build relationships and create deals. This was in stark contrast to Trump, who showed Europe an appalling lack of manners and disrespect for other cultures. He even failed to walk with Merkel and had to rely on a golf cart to keep up.
Merkel impressed the world with the way she dealt with Trump’s bumbling. Her expression while speaking with him was often bemused, and she gave tiny, almost imperceptible shrugs whenever he said something inappropriate. Merkel has had practice dealing with egos. She was greeted by a dog during her first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite being afraid of dogs, she refused to flinch and later said Putin had pulled the stunt merely to demonstrate the fear of his own weakness.
Despite her leadership abilities, not all of Europe loves Merkel. Many EU countries have felt the pain of the austerity measures she has set in the past. Merkel defended the measures by claiming the countries had been financially irresponsible, which had a negative effect on the EU as a whole. Some Germans have said she relies too much on public opinion polls, and her approach to politics is too dry and scientific.
Merkel considers herself emancipated but does not directly identify as a feminist. She engages in a simple life with her husband, Joachim Sauer. She is often seen cheering on the football while eating chips and drinking beer. Her common, geeky image is not contrived. She lives her life honestly and is not afraid to make gutsy calls when required.
The German chancellor has proven herself to be the strong and stable leader the world needs at the moment. Her ability to stand up to Trump and to admit that America is no longer a friend to the EU shows the honesty and courage required to go forth into an uncertain future.