President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday for a White House meeting that could help determine the future of the transatlantic alliance and shape the working relationship between two of the world’s most powerful leaders.
The new U.S. president and the long-serving stateswoman, whose country is Europe’s largest economy, will discuss funding for NATO and relations with Russia in their first meeting since Trump took office in January, reports Reuters.
The meeting is consequential for both sides.
Merkel, who officials say has prepared carefully for the encounter, is likely to press Trump for assurances of support for a strong European Union and a commitment to fight climate change.
Trump, who as a presidential candidate criticized Merkel for allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, will seek her support for his demand that North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations pay more for their defense needs.
Relationship building will be a less overt but important agenda item. Merkel had close relations with Trump’s Democratic and Republican predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and she is likely to seek a strong working relationship with Trump despite major policy differences and wariness in Germany about the former New York businessman.
“Those who know the chancellor know that she has a knack for winning over people in personal discussions. I am sure that Donald Trump will not be immune,” said Juergen Hardt, a conservative lawmaker who helps coordinate transatlantic relations for the German government.
Trump is eager to see follow-through on his demand that European countries shoulder more of the burden of paying for the NATO alliance, which he has criticized.
He will also seek counsel from Merkel on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader Merkel has dealt with extensively and whom Trump, to the consternation of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, has praised.
“The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor’s views on her experience interacting with Putin,” a senior administration official told reporters.