Angela Merkel was invited by Joe Biden to Washington next month, a sign of the president’s determination to mend a relationship that fell to an all-time low during the Trump years.
Merkel becomes the first European leader to be granted the honor of an official invitation to meet Biden in the United States since he became president in January, ahead of Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson. The two are also expected to hold a bilateral meeting at the G7 summit in Cornwall, which kicked off on Friday.
The longtime chancellor will step down later this year after 16 years in office, and it will likely be her last big trip abroad before leaving politics. Merkel has largely avoided visits to foreign countries since the start of the pandemic.
US-German relations were strained during Donald Trump’s presidency, which blasted Berlin for its relatively low defense spending, high current account surplus and support for Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline crossing the Baltic Sea.
German officials say the background music has improved dramatically since Biden became president, although Nord Stream 2 continues to be an irritant in the relationship. One of Biden’s first moves was to stop the withdrawal of US troops from Germany that Trump had ordered.
A Chancellery spokesperson confirmed Merkel will be visiting Washington on July 15 and said details of the program will be released later.
An article in the Handelsblatt newspaper said she wanted to use the trip to resolve the dispute over Nord Stream 2, which will increase the volume of gas Russia can deliver directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.
Trump had said he would weaken Ukraine in its long-standing confrontation with Russia and, by increasing Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, would make Europe’s largest economy a “hostage.” From the Kremlin.
Biden also opposes Nord Stream 2, calling it a “bad deal for Europe”. He fears this will deprive Kiev of lucrative gas transit charges, make it much more vulnerable to Kremlin pressure, and increase Europe’s dependence on Russian energy imports.
But his administration has sought to pull the spur of the dispute, hoping to improve relations with Germany. Last month, he lifted the sanctions against the company in charge of Nord Stream 2, while maintaining them for Russian ships laying the pipeline.
Handelsblatt said Merkel’s foreign policy adviser Jan Hecker recently met with Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, to explore ways to resolve the Nord Stream 2 conflict. Both sides called the meeting constructive.
Hecker has made a series of proposals to defuse the dispute, which will now be broadened and serve as the basis for the meeting between Merkel and Biden.
Any solution will likely include German proposals to help Ukraine become a major exporter of hydrogen, using its existing pipeline network. Germany sees hydrogen as a key part of its strategy to reduce carbon emissions.