Merkel meets Trump in conflict of favor and substance

Angela Merkel and Donald Trump,
She is managed and cautious, a physicist from East Germany who takes her time making choices and has by no means relished the eye that comes from being Europe’s strongest chief.

He’s a rich actual property magnate from New York who shoots from the hip and enjoys the highlight.

It’s exhausting to think about two leaders extra completely different, in fashion or substance, than Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Donald Trump, the brand new president of the USA.

For months, they’ve been engaged in an uneasy long-distance skirmish over coverage and values.

On Tuesday, they meet for the primary time – a high-stakes encounter that will probably be watched by governments world wide for clues about the way forward for the transatlantic alliance, a partnership that has helped form the worldwide order since World Battle Two however which Trump is threatening to upend.

“Do I believe they will develop into good associates? Most likely not. They’re very completely different personalities,” stated Charles Kupchan, who suggested Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama on European coverage as a member of the Nationwide Safety Council.

“However I do suppose they’ve a powerful curiosity, each politically and strategically, in studying learn how to work collectively. It’s arguably crucial assembly with a overseas chief of Trump’s presidency.”

German officers say the detail-oriented Merkel, 62, has been getting ready assiduously for her journey to Washington.

She has watched Trump’s speeches and poured over his interviews, together with a prolonged Q&A with Playboy journal from 1990 through which he floats lots of the controversial concepts he’s now making an attempt to implement as president, they are saying.

Members of her entourage have additionally analyzed Trump’s encounters with different leaders – together with Britain’s Theresa Could, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Canada’s Justin Trudeau – and have had exchanges with a few of their counterparts on learn how to deal with the unpredictable former reality-TV star, the officers added.

“We now have to be ready for the truth that he doesn’t wish to pay attention for lengthy, that he prefers clear positions and doesn’t need to delve into particulars,” stated one senior German official.

On each financial and overseas coverage, the divide between the 2 leaders seems huge.

Trump, 70, has referred to as Merkel’s determination to permit a whole bunch of hundreds of refugees into Germany a “catastrophic mistake.”

He has threatened to impose tariffs on German carmakers that import into the U.S. market. And he has criticized Berlin for not spending extra on protection, a longstanding U.S. criticism that Merkel has promised to handle.

One other supply of pressure is Germany’s 50 billion euro commerce surplus with the USA.

Trump adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of gaining unfair commerce benefits by way of a weak euro. Merkel and her ministers have identified that the European Central Financial institution – and never Berlin – controls the destiny of Europe’s single foreign money.

Russia may also be on the agenda. White Home officers have stated Trump will search recommendation from Merkel on learn how to cope with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For her half, Merkel has been essential of Trump’s journey ban focusing on the residents of a number of primarily Muslim international locations. In a telephone name in January, she defined to Trump that the Geneva Conference obliges signatories, together with the USA, to soak up conflict refugees on humanitarian grounds.

Merkel can also be involved that Trump, who has repeatedly praised Britain’s determination to depart the European Union, would possibly proceed to undermine the bloc along with his rhetoric at a time of deep disaster triggered by the rise of anti-EU populist events.

“Europe is in a really fragile, precarious state and Germany is making an attempt to make sure that the European integration mission holds collectively. I think the chancellor will need to make this clear to the president,” stated Anthony Gardner, who served as U.S. ambassador to the European Union till January.

“This is a chance to sketch out areas of widespread curiosity, to outline a constructive agenda,” he added. “However one assembly received’t change the environment by itself.”

Trump is the third U.S. president that Merkel, Europe’s longest-serving chief, has labored with.

She established a great rapport with George W. Bush, who was eager to restore ties with Germany after his conflict with Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder over the Iraq conflict.

And though relations with Obama bought off to a clumsy begin when Merkel rebuffed his request to talk on the Brandenburg Gate throughout the 2008 presidential marketing campaign, the 2 grew shut over time, cooperating on sanctions towards Russia and launching negotiations on a transatlantic free-trade deal.

“The parting is difficult for me,” Merkel acknowledged when Obama visited Berlin in November, per week after Trump’s victory.

The German chief will probably be strolling a fantastic line in Washington. With an election looming at dwelling in September, she should keep away from providing her political opponents ammunition by cozying as much as Trump. Neither can she afford an open confrontation that may harm German pursuits.

One of many greatest issues within the chancellor’s camp earlier than the go to is the potential for surprises.

Japan’s Abe had a clumsy 19-second handshake with Trump, whereas Could was criticized in some sections of the British media for holding arms with Trump throughout a stroll on the White Home, apparently after he reached out to regular himself.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Trump final month, he and his group spent the day earlier than operating by way of limitless situations, strains of questioning and role-plays to make sure they have been ready for any state of affairs.

However in the long run, they have been nonetheless bowled over when Trump spoke off the cuff at their information convention on the delicate problems with settlements and a future Palestinian state.

Merkel has admitted to being so uncomfortable with surprises as a baby that she drew up her Christmas wish-list months upfront to keep away from being caught off-guard by an surprising present.

With Trump, she may need to anticipate the surprising.

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