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Love, death & robots: Obama snuggles with Merkel, recalls old droning times at VIP gala in Germany

Love, death & robots: Obama snuggles with Merkel, recalls old droning times at VIP gala in Germany
Former US president and smooth-talking drone warfare enthusiast Barack Obama has paid a visit to his old pal Angela Merkel, reminiscing about the good old days and collecting a fat check for a speech at a “leadership conference.”

Merkel looked pleased as punch to see her friend from the pre-Trump era, flashing an unusually genuine smile during their embrace as he left the chancellery. Obama, for his part, called Merkel one of his “favorite partners” during his two terms in office.

The pair reportedly discussed “trans-Atlantic relations” during their meeting. The nostalgia session must have proved therapeutic for Merkel, after repeatedly being taken to task by Obama’s successor Donald Trump over Germany’s failure to pay enough for the privilege of hosting US troops as would be expected from a good NATO member.

Also on rt.com Something to chew over? Trump ‘threw Starburst candy at Merkel’ amid G7 summit row

And transatlantic relations aren’t in the best shape, with the Trump administration promising repercussions for Germany’s resistance to the non-stop flood of US sanctions against trading partners like Russia and Iran. Certainly, Obama has been much better than his successor at buttering up the German leader, giving her a Presidential Medal of Honor in 2011 – while Trump infamously chucked Starburst candies in her direction during a G7 summit.

Also on rt.com Trump the outsider gatecrashes own party: Top takeaways from an ill-mannered G7

What did they really talk about during their meeting? Obama could have congratulated Merkel on finally admitting that the US was running its drone warfare operations out of Ramstein Airbase – how brilliant of her to drop that bombshell during Trump’s term and thus focus popular anger on him, as if the drones hadn’t been coming and going for over a decade. Or perhaps he just advised her on how to relax and learn to love Germany being swamped with refugees created by the wars his administration began or continued.

But Obama wasn’t just in town to flirt with the outgoing German chancellor – he had a paycheck to collect, courtesy of the World Leadership Summit in Cologne, where attendees paid anywhere from €85 to €5,000 for the chance to hear the former president share his thoughts on such pressing issues as climate change, feminism, activism, and – of course – leadership.

The VIP ticket not only gave them a chance to watch a person who used to be president eat, they also got to have a picture taken with the former US commander-in-chief, forever preserving the memory. Those unable or unwilling to shell out the big dollars reportedly crowded toward the stage, attempting to selfie their way into the president’s aura.

As is to be expected from an event billed as a “global leadership summit,” Obama had plenty of vague platitudes for the audience, which lapped them up graciously. He also continued his pattern of passive-aggressive treatment of Trump, refusing to speak his successor’s name while making it clear exactly on whom he was throwing shade.

Obama was also asked to weigh in on one of the more controversial aspects of his presidency, the 563 (known) drone strikes he oversaw that left between 384 and 807 civilians dead, not including casualties inflicted in “active battlefield” countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq – or deaths not reported as civilian casualties, a persistent problem during his presidency. Obama admitted the decision to rain fiery death hadn’t been an easy one, but said that, ultimately, he believes drones led to less collateral damage than if he had sent troops into all the places he bombed. Refraining from bombing at all apparently didn’t cross his mind.

Helen Buyniski

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