The White House will attempt to put a positive spin on U.S.-German relations this week when German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Washington for her first personal encounter with President Trump, after months of disagreements over trade, immigration and Mr. Trump’s criticism of the news media.
Administration officials have downplayed acrimony between the two ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, saying the goal will be to “have a positive interaction” and that Mr. Trump is even keen to seek Ms. Merkel’s advice on how to manage relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From The Washington Times
“The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” said one senior administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity Friday. “He’s going to be very interested in hearing her insights on what it’s like to deal with the Russians.”
The comments suggested that Mr. Trump will pursue a conciliatory posture toward Ms. Merkel, despite the president having set German nerves on edge over the past year by expressing a desire for warmer U.S.-Russian relations that could have far-reaching security implications for Germany and wider Europe.
What remains to be seen is the extent to which the two leaders can see eye to eye on Russia and other matters — most notably trade and immigration — during a meeting that could smooth or dramatically increase tensions with Washington’s perhaps most vital European ally.
“The stakes for this meeting, I would argue, and for this relationship even more so, are very high,” said Heather A. Conley, who heads the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. She said Germany represents “the most critical relationship for the U.S. with a European power.”
“It’s actually a really important meeting to set up the tone for the relationship in itself,” Ms. Conley told reporters on a conference call Friday, adding that the meeting could establish a “modus vivendi for these two leaders to really create a more stable framework for this critical relationship.”
The global economy, Germany’s NATO contributions and wider U.S.-German policy cohesion toward both Russia and China are all expected to be on the table. But until they are, concerns are high that Tuesday’s discussions could be derailed by personal and ideological disagreements.
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