While campaigning for president, Donald Trump slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel for “ruining” Germany. He called her decision to allow more than a million refugees into Germany “insane.” He even predicted that Germans would overthrow her.
Trump, now the president of the United States, and Merkel, still the leader of Germany, will come face to face for the first time Friday at the White House.
Merkel, ranked as the second most powerful person in the world by Forbes last year, is expected to ignore Trump’s criticism altogether and move forward on forming a relationship with the brash new leader of one of Germany’s closest allies.
After nearly a dozen years as chancellor, Merkel is known for her successful track record on dealing with notoriously difficult leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. German media report that she has been studying Trump’s speeches and interviews to prepare for the visit.
“She’s used to awkward meetings. She’s handled them quite well,” said Constanze Stelzenmueller, an expert on German, European and trans-Atlantic policy at the Brookings Institution, a research center. “You don’t linger over the personal.”
Merkel had good relationships with Trump’s predecessors, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama. Despite allegations that the Obama administration wiretapped her cellphone, Merkel and Obama maintained a close partnership. She was the last world leader he called before leaving office.
Trump and Merkel differ on substance and style. They disagree on values and how those values translate to policy, including immigration, trade, defense spending and the role of the European Union. A Trump adviser recently accused Germany of depressing the euro to gain a trade advantage.