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Barack Obama urges next US president Donald Trump to stand up to Russia

Published 17/11/2016

President Barack Obama arrives in Berlin on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama arrives in Berlin on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama has expressed hope that President-elect Donald Trump would stand up to Russia when it deviates from US "values and international norms".

Mr Obama, in a joint news conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel during his final presidential visit to Germany, said he does not expect Mr Trump to "follow exactly our blueprint or our approach".

He said he is hopeful that Mr Trump will pursue constructive policies that defend democratic values and the rule of law.

He said the next president should not "simply take a real-politik approach and suggest that if we just cut some deals with Russia, even if it hurts people or even if it violates international norms or even if it leaves smaller countries vulnerable or creates long-term problems in regions like Syria, that we just do whatever's convenient at the time".

Mr Obama began his presidency with a goal to "reset" ties with Russia, but they eventually plunged to the lowest point since the Cold War over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Mr Trump has spoken favourably of Russian president Vladimir Putin. But he has outlined few specifics as to how he would go about recalibrating ties with the counry.

Mrs Merkel, for her part, said she was approaching the incoming Trump administration with "an open mind" and was encouraged that the presidential process in the US was "working smoothly" so far.

In Germany, officials hope the change in presidents will not bring about a significant shift in relations between the two nations or the Nato alliance.

Mrs Merkel worked well with president George W Bush before Mr Obama's election.

She talked with Mr Trump by phone after his election, offering him Germany's "close cooperation," but emphasising it would be on the basis of shared values of "democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for the dignity of human beings, independently of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political views".

A joint opinion piece by Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel in business magazine WirtschaftsWoche seemed directed as much at the incoming Trump administration in the US as at European nations.

In it, the two leaders stressed that the "underlying bedrock of our shared values is strong" even if the pursuit of common goals is sometimes gone about differently.

Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel noted that European Union-US trade was the largest between any two partners worldwide, and emphasised that the trans-Atlantic friendship has helped forge a climate accord, provide help for refugees worldwide, form a collective defence under Nato, and strengthen the global fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Mr Trump, in contrast, has called climate change a "hoax" and said the climate accord should be renegotiated.

He promised to tighten rules for accepting refugees, complained the US was paying more than its share to support Nato and has sharply criticised the US strategy for fighting IS.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Obama have enjoyed a close relationship over the years, and he seems to be counting on the German leader's strength to help counter the isolationist tone voiced by Mr Trump during the election campaign.

The mood for Mr Obama's latest visit was significantly tamped down compared with his first visit to the German capital in 2008.

Then some 200,000 exuberant fans packed the road between the landmark Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column to hear the then-candidate, in a speech that solidified his place on the world stage.

Mr Obama told Berliners then that progress requires sacrifice and shared burdens among allies.

"That is why America cannot turn inward," Mr Obama told the cheering crowd. "That is why Europe cannot turn inward."

Eight years later, his words seem to have foreshadowed the nationalist, isolationist forces gaining traction in some parts of Europe and punctuated by Mr Trump's victory in the US election.

In Berlin, Mr Obama will also meet the leaders of France, Italy, Spain and Britain. His last stop on his final foreign tour will be Peru over the weekend.

AP

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