Friday 17 November 2017

Trump to ask Merkel for advice on dealing with Putin

Needs help: President Trump. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria
Needs help: President Trump. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton Washington

US President Donald Trump will ask Chancellor Angela Merkel for advice on how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US officials said yesterday, as the US and German leaders meet next week after sometimes pointed disagreements in recent months.

Mrs Merkel will visit the White House on Tuesday for talks with Mr Trump and a joint news conference in what will be their first face-to-face meeting since Mr Trump took power on January 20.

They are expected to discuss Germany's level of defence spending for the Nato alliance, the Ukraine conflict, Syrian refugees, the European Union and a host of other issues, said three senior Trump administration officials who briefed reporters.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Mr Trump regularly criticised Mrs Merkel for her open-door refugee policy, contrasting it with what he promised would be tighter controls in the United States if he won office. Mrs Merkel has been a leading critic of Mr Trump's effort to ban travellers temporarily from seven Muslim-majority nations, a list that has since been pared back to six.

"My expectation is that they'll have a very positive, cordial meeting," said one of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mr Trump has long expressed desire for warmer US relations with Russia but some of his top Cabinet officials are sceptical.

"The president will be very interested in hearing the chancellor's views on her experience interacting with Putin," said another official.

"He's going to be very interested in hearing her insights on what it's like to deal with the Russians."

Mr Trump will also ask for Mrs Merkel's advice on what role the United States can most helpfully play in ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has pitted Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists.

The officials described Mr Trump as impressed by Mrs Merkel's leadership, particularly in Germany's role alongside France in seeking peace in Ukraine, and on Afghanistan.

Mr Trump has been critical of Nato allies who he says do not pay their fair share, and the officials said he would raise with Mrs Merkel the need for Germany to increase its defence spending as he tries to rally European allies to contribute more to Nato.

Germany should be "leading by example" on increasing contributions to Nato, one official said. "We are heartened by the German government's determination to reach Nato's benchmark of committing 2pc of GDP to defence by 2024," the official said.

Irish Independent

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