Paris: German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to the White House on Friday for talks with Donald Trump, facing an uphill struggle to save the Iran nuclear deal, avoid a trade war and make her relationship with the US president functional again.
The German leader’s visit has already been overshadowed by a backslapping three-day festival of “fraternite” between Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron this week.
Aware of the optics, anxious German diplomats pressed in vain for Merkel to enjoy a similarly meaty two days at the White House, betting the face time would help sweeten difficult relations, officials told AFP.
When Merkel last came to Washington, the cautious dry-witted chancellor held several awkward joint appearances with her more impulsive host clashing publicly over defence spending, trade and migration.
This time around, the tricolor French flags were only just removed in time for Merkel’s arrival for a one day, run-of-the-mill “working visit.”
The stylistic differences between the Macron and Merkel visits are “very telling” according to Mona Krewel of Cornell University.
It points, she said, “to the much more difficult relationship Trump has with Merkel.”
That is a dramatic change in fortunes for the German leader who, for more than a decade, was seen by Washington not just as a sensible and pragmatic interlocutor, but the de facto leader of Europe.
Her relationship with Barack Obama was particularly close, officials from that administration have said, so much so that he was a powerful voice encouraging her to run for a fourth term.
Their partnership has proven along with centrists claiming her as the new “leader of the free world” to be a poisoned chalice for Berlin in the age of Trump.
Just hours before the chancellor landed late on Thursday, some 15 months after Trump was sworn into office, the Republican Congress finally got around to confirming an ambassador to Germany.