Washington Farewells Merkel: US and German Leaders Commit to Transatlantic Friendship

Written by | Friday, July 23rd, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited US President Joe Biden in the White House yesterday (15 July) in what will be her last trip to Washington after nearly 16 years in power. While the general objective is to reset transatlantic ties, it was the details over the West’s strategy toward China and the future of Nord Stream 2 pipeline that are likely to determine the sustainability of the touted fresh start. “We stand together and will continue to stand together to defend our eastern flank allies at NATO against Russian aggression,” US President Joe Biden told press while meeting the German leader in the US capital in their first bilateral summit. “Good friends can disagree,” Biden added, when asked about US opposition to a Russian-German gas pipeline. The US and Germany would also defend human rights in China, he said.
Biden renewed his concerns to the German Chancellor about the major, nearly complete Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline but said they agreed Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon. The two discussed — though made no apparent headway — on differences over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, in a letter to Biden also on Thursday raised concerns that the pipeline is already having an economic impact on US ally Ukraine. Rubio said Gazprom, the company that operates Nord Stream 2, “has already started to reduce its use of pipelines in Ukraine” as the new gas pipeline nears completion.
The two leaders also discussed the differences over their nations’ views on China as a rising global power. Germany has strong trade ties with China but has also been critical of Beijing’s human rights record. Merkel is keen to avoid a situation in which Germany, or the European Union, might be forced to choose sides between China and the US. Merkel has insisted on the need to cooperate with China on global issues such as climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, even while then-President Trump was accusing Beijing of having started it. But despite these obvious differences, “on a personal note, I must tell you I will miss seeing you at our summits,” Biden said as he stood by Merkel, the second-longest serving chancellor in Germany’s history. “I truly will.” Merkel, who had a famously difficult relationship with former President Donald Trump, showed her ease and familiarity with Biden, repeatedly referring to him as “Dear Joe.”
Meanwhile, while former US President George W. Bush does not normally give interviews, he made an exception to talk of outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, giving personal insights on her time in office and their relationship. In an interview with German media, Bush said that “Merkel brought class and dignity to a very important position; [she] made very hard decisions, and did so with what’s best for Germany, and did so based upon principle.” The former US president also described Merkel as “a compassionate leader, a woman who is not afraid to lead.” For George W. Bush — as for many Americans — Angela Merkel personifies the “American dream.” A woman who grew up under a repressive communist regime, she made it to the top echelons in the free world. “Merkel has survived in a pretty tough environment for more than eight years. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it,” Bush says, alluding also to the impression that US citizens seemed to have had enough of Donald Trump after four years in office. “And it reflects the German voters’ trust.”

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