With her visit to the White House today Angela Merkel is well on the way to completing what amounts to a farewell tour of the western world. In mid-June, she was in Cornwall for the G7 summit of the world’s richest countries. Ten days on, she bade farewell to Nato and the EU at its last summit of the season, and a week later she lunched with Boris Johnson at Chequers before tea with the Queen at Windsor Castle.
The pictures suggested that her meeting with the Queen was a lot more relaxed than the Johnson lunch; the two women – practised, it might be said, in the less obtrusive school of politics – appeared cordial and at ease in each other’s company. But it is testimony to Merkel’s unrivalled international standing, as she prepares to bow out as German chancellor after 16 years, that her latest trip is to Washington, where she will be the first European leader invited to the Biden White House. Johnson might have been the first to meet the US president one-on-one, re-asserting the “special relationship” on the eve of the G7. But it is Merkel who takes the honours in Washington.
And, like Biden’s recent European tour, the encounter will send a very particular message. Biden may have little to gain politically from the meeting – after all, a new German chancellor, perhaps even a differently constituted coalition, will hold power in Berlin by Christmas – but his talks with Merkel will reinforce the point he drove home repeatedly during his European tour, that he is absolutely not Donald Trump.
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