It’s partly cloudy evening in Berlin (72°F) and sunny (90°F), humid early afternoon in Washington. Here’s some background information about Merkel’s visit to the White House.
Angela Merkel arrived in Washington yesterday evening and spend the night at a hotel in Georgetown. Today at 9:00 AM she joined vice president Kamala Harris for a working breakfast at the VP’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory. After a meeting with business leaders, the Chancellor was presented with a honorary degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Following the ceremony, Merkel delivered remarks and answered questions submitted by JHU students.
Angela Merkel will arrive at the White House around 1:55 PM. After meeting with POTUS at the Oval Office at 2:00 PM and an expanded bilateral-meeting at 2:25 PM, both leaders will hold a press conference at 4:15 PM in the East Room. At 6:15 PM the President and the First lady will host Dr. Merkel and her husband Professor Joachim Sauer for a dinner. Other guests include VP Kamala Harris, the First Gentleman and a group of “supporters of the bilateral relationship with Germany”, per the White House.
As Chancellor Merkel visits Washington more than 40 people have died and dozens are missing in deadly floods in Germany and Belgium. Chancellor Merkel expressed shock and sorrow and assured that everything possible will be done to find those who are still missing.
After leaders of Japan, South Korea, Israel and Afghanistan, Angela Merkel will be the fifth foreign official and the first European leader to visit the White House since Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Today’s visit will be Angela Merkel’s final trip to Washington as a Chancellor before she steps down from her post in September following the German federal election. During her sixteen-year tenure, Merkel visited the United States at least 19 times, including 11 visits to the White House, per Office of the Historian at the Department of State.
Restoring German – U.S. relations
Chancellor Merkel have had a chilly relationship with former President Donald Trump, who publicly criticized Germany for what he considered unfair trade practices, open borders and insufficient defense spending. He repeatedly accused Germany and the European Union of exploiting the United States and in 2020 announced partial U.S. troops withdrawal from Germany.
After four years of strained relations with Washington, the German political establishment welcomed Joe Biden’s presidency calling the trans-Atlantic alliance “irreplaceable” and declaring their willingness to open “a new chapter in the U.S. – German relations.”
Soon after assuming office, President Biden told Merkel that he wanted to revitalize the alliance with Germany. He quickly reversed his predecessor’s decision on troops withdrawal and ended some trade disputes with the EU. Biden also waived sanctions against the company overseeing Nord Stream 2 and its CEO, essentially letting the project continue. He justified his decision by pointing to the fact that the pipeline has been 90% completed and expressed his belief that imposing sanctions would be “counter-productive” for the U.S. European relations.
This decision however upset leaders in Ukraine, Poland, and other Eastern European countries, who fear that Russia will use energy as a weapon and are concerned that the Berlin–oriented U.S policy in Europe will be conducted at the expense of NATO’s eastern flank.
How Germans see Biden?
Joe Biden’s electoral win has led to a significant shift in America’s image in Germany. According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. favorability among Germans rose from 26% to 59%.
The majority now believe that the United States takes into account the interests of their country when making foreign policy decisions (32% increase), and almost three in four see the United States as a reliable partner. In the Pew’s 2021 Global Attitudes Survey President Joe Biden enjoys positive ratings from 78% of Germans – slightly lower than Barack Obama but significantly higher than Donald Trump (in 2020 only 10% of Germans had confidence in Trump to do the right thing in the world affairs).
More than 80% of surveyed approved Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin WHO and the Paris Climate Agreement. This policy alignment may not be the case regarding relations with China.
In a poll for German newspaper Die Weld in December only 17% of Germans supported siding with the U.S. in a potential conflict with China, 77% preferred not to get involved.