In a press conference at the White House Friday, President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the friendship between the two nations, even as both leaders acknowledged their two nations took differing views on a number of issues; perhaps the most stark being the rumored U.S. intention of pulling out of former President Barack Obama’s Iran deal.
Trump, after briefly congratulating his new Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell — who was confirmed Thursday following an extended wait the president intimated may have been due to obstruction by Congressional Democrats — jumped immediately into detailing the ways in which he and his German counterpart maintain a shared vision of world politics. The president mentioned the two countries’ commitment to applying “maximum pressure” on the North Korean regime; how the U.S. is expecting European nations to “pay their fair share” on defense (the amount required for NATO member nations); and how the U.S. is dedicated to a more “reciprocal relationship” between friends and trading partners.
Merkel acknowledged Germany is moving toward the 2% benchmark of GDP on military spending and specifically mentioned the success of tax reform legislation in the U.S. that has German companies interested in potentially new investment.
The two world leaders — who clearly share an easy relationship if not an overtly fond one — also mentioned their mutual desire for peace between North and South Korea, an increased focus on addressing hotbeds of violence like Syria, and the influence of Iran in the Middle East.
One difference of opinion, albeit it a seemingly minor one, has to do with U.S. willingness to leave the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — otherwise known as the Iran deal. Merkel expressed a sentiment similar to French President Emmanuel Macron on his state visit this week when she noted that the JCPOA was a good first step but was not sufficient to establish reliability.
Merkel also mentioned her interest in working with Grenell as he readies himself for the role of U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and she was forthcoming about how she sees Europe and the U.S. working in partnership as regards building a healthier relationship with Russia.
“No one is interested in not having good relationships with Russia,” the Chancellor said.
Video of the full press conference is embedded below.