Chancellor Angela Merkel met US President Joe Biden in Washington on her latest trip abroad. Germany and the United States were strategic friends – until Donald Trump took office. US policy expert Claudia Bruehler explains how Merkel’s visit should be assessed.
Political scientist Claudia Brühler is Lecturer in American Studies At the University of St. Gallen.
SRF News: Have the friendly relations between the two countries been resumed?
Claudia Brühler: I’m not really going to talk about a fresh start. You can pick up where you left off in 2016. Relations between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump’s ancestors were excellent.
At the press conference, Angela Merkel also spoke about the floods in Germany. This also puts the focus back on climate change. Is there anything new about that?
Not right. It should be clear to us that we only learn from the conversation between Biden and Merkel what they want to tell us. We only know what they said in their joint statement to the media. Talking about climate change was less than talking about a human catastrophe. Joe Biden also expressed his deepest regret and sympathy here.
The two also talked about a strategy toward China. Was there such a thing as a joint German-American strategy to be heard?
A common strategy would be overkill. There is a red thread running through the press conference and generally through relations between the two countries: “agree to disagree,” a willingness to continue working together, even if one does not want to pursue the same strategy in some areas. Everyone agrees that trade with China should be fair. But when it comes to assessing the consequences if things go unfair, again you are different.
Merkel has achieved what Germany wants. Biden suspended the sanctions.
The fact that there is agreement and disagreement also applies to Nord Stream 2, the Baltic Sea pipeline that is supposed to pump Russian gas to Germany bypassing Ukraine. The United States rejects the project because it fears that Europe will rely too heavily on Russia. Was Merkel able to allay Biden’s fears a bit?
I do not think so. But it achieved what Germany wanted. Joe Biden suspended the sanctions and declared semi-outgoing that the pipeline was 90 percent complete when he took office. Here he had to express his confidence that Germany would win if Russia abused the pipeline to put Ukraine under pressure.
In the end there was plenty of praise for the German chancellor from new US President Joe Biden. why?
Merkel is highly regarded in the United States. She is the first East German woman to lead Germany. She is also someone who is always trying to find workable solutions. In the United States, the end of her tenure is seen as the end of predictability in relations with Germany. Dealing with Nordstream 2 is an example. The US government does not know who will meet at the G-20 summit in Rome in October.
What remains of yesterday’s meeting at the level of German-American relations?
I think it is a good starting point for Merkel’s successor to be able to build on a very fruitful cooperation and goodwill. But in politics sometimes symbols are more important than actual actions.
The interview was conducted by Roger Abley.
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