Donald Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel are to speak on the phone on Saturday, in their first direct talks since the new US president took office, amid widespread concern in Europe about his attacks on the EU, Nato and international cooperation.
The discussions are likely to focus on Russia and the Ukraine crisis but they will also create an opportunity for exchanges between two leaders sharply divided by their political and economic ideologies. The White House confirmed the plan.
Ms Merkel has taken a deliberately low-key approach to Mr Trump’s election, declining to respond to a personal attack on her in which he condemned the chancellor’s refugee policy as “disastrous”.
German officials hope the realities of government will force Mr Trump to tone down or even change some of his more controversial ideas, including the poor opinion he holds of the EU project and the support he has expressed for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Christoph Heusgen, Ms Merkel’s foreign and security policy advisor, has called for “strategic patience”.
However, Berlin is growing increasingly alarmed as Mr Trump has shown little sign of retreating from his views in his first week in office and instead pressed ahead with very contentious proposals, such as the Mexican border wall.
Even Ms Merkel, who is generally restrained in her criticisms of allied leaders, has hinted of the problems represented by Mr Trump’s criticisms of the cooperative liberal world order and open economic ties.
Standing next to French president Francois Hollande, who was visiting Berlin, the chancellor said:
We see that the global framework conditions are changing dramatically and quickly and we must respond to these new challenges, including those concerning the defence of a free society, those concerning the defence of free trade, and those concerning the economic challenges coming, for example, from the growing competitiveness of the developing countries.
She called for more EU unity, saying: “Europe faces big internal and external challenges which we … can only master by working together.” But she also said that as well as offering solidarity, the EU imposed “responsibilities and duties” on member states.
“We need a clear, common commitment to the European Union, to what we have accomplished, and to the values of our liberal, democratic democracies.”
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