U.S. and Germany see Ukraine resolution methods and Russia relations differently
U.S. and Germany do not see eye to eye on what needs to be done to help resolve the conflict in Ukraine or how Russia should be dealt with – such is a conclusion one can effectively make after the first meeting between US president Donald Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel on March 17.
The differences were hard to mask, leading to some uncomfortable moments at a joint press conference that followed the meeting, Reuters reports.
The meeting was the first between the new U.S. president and the long-serving stateswoman, who leads Europe’s largest economy. It was seen as one that could help determine the future of the transatlantic alliance and shape their working relationship.
Though Merkel appeared relaxed, the body language between them was not especially warm. The news conference ended even more oddly, with a quip by Trump about wiretapping that left the German leader visibly bewildered.
Trump and Merkel shook hands when she arrived at the White House but did not do so in the Oval Office where she frequently leaned towards him while he stared straight ahead, sitting with his legs apart and hands together.
In the Oval Office both leaders described their meeting in brief remarks to reporters as having been very good. Merkel began her remarks at the news conference by saying it was better to speak to each other than about each other.
Near the start of the news conference, Trump pressed Merkel for Germany to meet NATO’s military spending target, and Merkel reiterated her country’s commitment to the 2 percent military spending goal.
“I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.”
Trump also stood by unproven claims that the Obama administration tapped his phones, and expressed solidarity with a surprised Merkel, whose government charged Washington in 2013 may have been spying on her.
“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” Trump said to Merkel, who looked bewildered as she stared back at him from her podium.
The Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a statement on March 16 rejecting Trump’s assertion that the Obama administration conducted surveillance on him.
A week ago Reuters reported that President Donald Trump was going to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel for advice on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin и the Ukraine issue.
“The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” said another official, Reuters reported on March 10.
“He’s going to be very interested in hearing her insights on what it’s like to deal with the Russians.” Reuters also said Trump would ask for Merkel’s advice on what role the United States could most helpfully play in ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has pitted Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists.
The details of what the two actually agreed – or disagreed – upon at their meeting have yet to become known.