I strongly recommend that everyone- especially American readers - check out the comprehensive profile of Angela Merkel in this week's New Yorker Magazine. The writer, George Packer, reviews her early years in the GDR, her meteoric rise, enduring popularity, and governing style.
On Merkel's analytical approach to problem solving:
"People who have followed her career point to Merkel’s scientific habit of mind as a key to her political success. “She is about the best analyst of any given situation that I could imagine,” a senior official in her government said. “She looks at various vectors, extrapolates, and says, ‘This is where I think it’s going.’ ” Trained to see the invisible world in terms of particles and waves, Merkel learned to approach problems methodically, drawing comparisons, running scenarios, weighing risks, anticipating reactions, and then, even after making a decision, letting it sit for a while before acting. She once told a story from her childhood of standing on a diving board for the full hour of a swimming lesson until, at the bell, she finally jumped."
On her relations with Vladimir Putin:
"Merkel is Putin’s most important interlocutor in the West; they talk every week, if not more often. “She’s talked to Putin more than Obama, Hollande, and Cameron combined have over these past months,” the senior official said. “She has a way of talking to him that nobody has. Cameron and Hollande call him to be able to say they’re world leaders and had the conversation.” Merkel can be tough to the point of unpleasantness, while offering Putin ways out of his own mess. Above all, she tries to understand how he thinks. “With Russia now, when one feels very angry I force myself to talk regardless of my feelings,” she said at the German Historical Museum. “And every time I do this I am surprised at how many other views you can have on a matter which I find totally clear. Then I have to deal with those views, and this can also trigger something new.” Soon after the annexation of Crimea, Merkel reportedly told Obama that Putin was living “in another world.” She set about bringing him back to reality."
On Merkel's enduring popularity with German voters:
"In a country where passionate rhetoric and macho strutting led to ruin, her analytical detachment and lack of apparent ego are political strengths. On a continent where the fear of Germany is hardly dead, Merkel’s air of ordinariness makes a resurgent Germany seem less threatening. “Merkel has a character that suggests she’s one of us,” Göring-Eckardt told me. Germans call the Chancellor Mutti, or Mommy. The nickname was first applied by Merkel’s rivals in the Christian Democratic Union as an insult, and she didn’t like it, but after Mutti caught on with the public Merkel embraced it."
On anti-Americanism and popular support in Germany for Putin's authoritarian Russia:
"Beneath the rise in anti-Americanism and the German sympathy with Russia, something deeper might be at work. During the First World War, Thomas Mann put aside writing “The Magic Mountain” and began composing a strange, passionate series of essays about Germany and the war. They were published in 1918, just before the Armistice, as “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man.” In it, Mann embraced the German cause in terms of national character and philosophy. He allied himself, as an artist, with Germany—“culture, soul, freedom, art”—against the liberal civilization of France and England that his older brother Heinrich supported, where intellect was always politicized. German tradition was authoritarian, conservative, and “nonpolitical”—closer to the Russian spirit than to the shallow materialism of democratic Europe. The war represented Germany’s age-old rebellion against the West. Imperial Germany refused to accept at gunpoint the universal principles of equality and human rights. Though Mann became a vocal supporter of democratic values in exile during the Nazi years, he never repudiated “Reflections.”"
On Merkel's skill at "triangulation" (a term used in the Clinton Administration describing the tactic of neutralizing your political opponents by appropriating their ideas and policies):
"Meanwhile, Merkel has neutralized the opposition, in large part by stealing its issues. She has embraced labor unions, lowered the retirement age for certain workers, and increased state payments to mothers and the old. (She told Dirk Kurbjuweit, of Der Spiegel, that, as Germany aged, she depended more on elderly voters.) In 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in Japan, shocked Merkel, and she reversed her position on nuclear power: Germany would phase it out through the next decade, while continuing to lead the world’s large industrial economies in solar and wind energy. (A quarter of the country’s energy now comes from renewable sources.) Meanwhile, she’s tried to rid her party of intolerant ideas—for example, by speaking out for the need to be more welcoming to immigrants. Supporters of the Social Democrats and the Greens have fewer and fewer reasons to vote at all, and turnout has declined. Schneider, a leading member of the generation of ’68, said, “This is the genius of Angela Merkel: she has actually made party lines senseless.”"
All in all a fascinating look at Angela Merkel and this modern "Biedermeier"-era of Germany poltics, which is now coming to an end thanks to the real threat of Russian aggression.