Trump welcomes Germany’s Merkel to White House

 

18-03-2017
DH

 

President Donald Trump greeted Germany’s Angela Merkel with a handshake at the White House today -- a cordial start to difficult talks between long-time allies who now differ on a host of issues from immigration to NATO.

The veteran chancellor arrived at a snowy White House, hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump’s tough election rhetoric.

The two leaders shook hands and smiled for the cameras before entering the West Wing, for a meeting that had been delayed three days because of bad weather.
The unlikely pair -- a cautious German chancellor and impulsive US president -- moved to the Oval Office, hoping to narrow differences on immigration and NATO but also Russia and global trade.

For years, Merkel -- a trained physicist -- had been president Barack Obama’s closest international partner, with the two sharing a strong rapport and a similar deliberative approach.

With Trump, Merkel may settle for avoiding an open argument or a unkind 140-character Twitter missive from the US leader.

Before coming to office in January, the US president called Merkel’s acceptance of refugees a "catastrophic mistake" and said she was "ruining Germany."

He also demanded that countries like Germany step up defence spending, a sensitive issue for a nation that has had a strong pacifist tradition since World War II and proselytizes fiscal prudence.

In a similar vein, Merkel has sought to remind -- some in the White House would say lecture -- the real estate mogul about democratic values.

Any "close cooperation," she said, must be on the basis of the "values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and human dignity, regardless of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political belief."

Comments like that have prompted some of Trump’s fiercest critics to declare Merkel the new "leader of the free world" -- a moniker normally taken up by the occupant of the White House.

Between meetings, the pair will hold a joint press conference at 1:20 PM (locla time) that is sure to dredge up past barbed disagreements.

"Germany looks toward Washington with a mixture of vulnerability and confidence," said Jeffrey Rathke of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Germany is the de facto leader of the European Union, but the Union is undergoing internal and external trials that make its future uncertain," he added.

"And Germany has placed all of its security eggs in multilateral baskets."
Since coming to office, Trump has tempered his comments slightly, but is still likely to press for higher defense spending.

And European officials still fret that Trump has too closely embraced the nationalist ideology of key advisor Steve Bannon.

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