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Europeans reveal who they wish was in the White House

The Munich Security Conference is celebrating its 55th birthday. Long a fixture on the security conference circuit, it takes place in the rather dated grandeur of the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. While Russian and Chinese spokesmen attend, it is essentially a forum for Europeans and Americans to renew their security vows.

In the press centre along with the cold drinks, newspapers, worthy reports and so on, there are some small boxes containing a jigsaw puzzle.

A rather dull picture of the conference hall is broken up into 55 pieces for 55 years for anyone who wishes some distraction from the speeches.

The puzzle is perhaps an unintended metaphor for the state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).

It is beset by problems; something which the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on probably her last visit here while in office, made abundantly clear.

With a deadline fast approaching for the US Department of Commerce to submit a report on proposed tariffs against imported cars, Mrs Merkel said such a prospect was frightening. She called for proper talks on the matter.

The US report is being drafted in the light of legislation that allows for the provision of tariffs against goods that might be a threat to US national security.

The German chancellor was blunt. She noted, for example, that BMW's largest plant was actually in the US state of South Carolina, from where many of the vehicles were exported to China.

Is this really a threat to US security, she asked, rhetorically adding: "It's a bit of a shock to us!"

But the tariff battle is just one of a raft of issues here in Munich that are causing tensions between the Trump administration and its European allies.

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