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Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will arrive in Washington tomorrow a diminished figure — limping into her fourth term after six months of torturous coalition talks and touching down in the afterglow of Emmanuel Macron’s state visit.

Flashback: Days after Trump’s election in November 2016, Barack Obama flew to Germany and hailed Merkel — then TIME’s reigning Person of the Year — as “my closest international partner these last eight years.” Headlines declared that she had, however reluctantly, become the "leader of the free world."

Flash forward: Since losing ground in September’s election, Merkel has been in something of a strategic retreat internationally. A recent Der Speigel cover story bemoaned “Germany’s Incredibly Shrinking Role on the World Stage.”

  • According to Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program, that retreat involved leaving some distance between her and a U.S. president who is toxic in Germany — though cold air was clearly flowing in both directions.
  • While she’ll never match Macron’s chummy relationship with Trump, she’ll have more freedom to engage with him now that she has formed a government.
  • With Macron having moved the ball as far as he could on the Iran deal, and an E.U. exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs expiring Tuesday, her chief focus is likely to be trade.

Peter Foster, the Telegraph’s Europe editor, says that if Merkel makes progress there, it will be a characteristic "triumph of substance over style." 

  • "After Macron, Merkel will inevitably look ponderous, dour even. But she has been around long enough to know that the Trumps and Macrons of this world have a habit of coming and going."
  • "Even as she enters the endgame of her political life, she will be quietly confident about whose legacy will endure. She will note that Macron may have upstaged her on the back-slapping stakes, but to scant effect — it looks certain that Trump will pull out of the Iran deal. Merkel still has the chance to pull off a substantive diplomatic achievement."

The bigger picture: With perhaps 3 years left as chancellor, and more than a dozen behind her, don't expect Merkel to take drastic steps to burnish her legacy.

“She sees her legacy as keeping Europe and the West together at a difficult time. That’s how she wants to go down in history.”
— Erik Brattberg

Go deeper: Putting Merkel's longevity in perspective.

Go deeper

Study: Fear of debt keeps Latinos out of college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fear of never being able to pay off school loans is keeping many young Latinos in the U.S. from going to college or completing a degree, according to a report published in September.

State of play: Latinos tend to have more difficulty repaying school debt than white student borrowers, according to Federal Reserve data, at the same time that they need more loans in order to afford tuition.

28 mins ago - World

Scoop: Biden administration objects to Israeli settlements plan

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett (L) meets with Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has privately protested to the Israeli government over its plan to approve the planning and construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: The approvals for new homes in the settlements will be the first since President Biden assumed office, and come after Biden and his top aides personally pressed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to restrain settlement activity and decrease the number of new housing units.

2 hours ago - World

Pentagon warns of ISIS-K capabilities outside Afghanistan

The site of an airstrike conducted by the U.S. against a planner for ISIS-K in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

U.S. intelligence believes ISIS-K has the "intent" to eventually launch attacks outside of Afghanistan and could be capable of doing so "somewhere between six or 12 months," a top Pentagon official told senators Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that terrorist groups will reconstitute and potentially pose a renewed threat to the U.S. homeland.

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