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Angela Merkel in the White House: The US President takes over the leadership of the free world again

It is Angela Merkel’s first visit to US President Joe Biden in Washington – and also her last as Chancellor. It was a “friendly exchange” with “a personal friend” – and was reminiscent of a kind of handover.

No, showing feelings, that was never really Angela Merkel’s thing. She became publicly emotional at most once during the refugee crisis. But on your own behalf? She looked rather mocking when a journalist tried his luck again and asked her an emotional question. On Thursday evening, at the press conference in the White House, an American reporter tried: How does the Chancellor look back on her meetings with four presidents, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Donald Trump to Joe Biden? Could she tell you something after her 16 years in office?

Merkel didn’t even think about telling anything. She replied: “We always had press conferences and you all could always see how you perceived it.” And: “Today it was a very friendly exchange.”

She had nothing more to say. She spoke much longer about a detailed question of trade relations with China.

Joe Biden will miss Angela Merkel

This was Merkel’s farewell visit. Her last time as Chancellor in the White House. And, as she emphasized, it was still primarily a working visit. There was a lot to talk about, from the controversial Baltic Sea pipeline Nordstream 2 to Afghanistan and dealing with China. After that, in front of the press in the East Room, it was Joe Biden’s turn to get emotional. He said he would miss Merkel at the summit. “I really will.” The 78-year-old US President made himself small in front of the German Chancellor, who was eleven years his junior, when he said she probably knew her way around the White House better than he did after her long tenure. The younger one is now retiring, the older one is at the beginning of his term of office.

They don’t agree on everything, the two of them. Merkel is sticking to Nordstream 2, Biden is against the pipeline because he sees it as a success for Vladimir Putin – the Russian gas flows under the sea from Russia directly to Germany. Ukraine no longer needs Putin. Biden doesn’t understand why Merkel is taking part. In turn, she thinks it is an economic project. For him, it’s geopolitics. “Good friends don’t always have to agree,” said the Chancellor. Which then sounded a bit like approaching retirement. But only for a short while.

Merkel’s farewell visit, a handover of the baton

In general, Angela Merkel looked very relaxed on that day in Washington. Maybe because Joe Biden now rules this country. It was she who held a lot together in the Trump years that might otherwise have fallen apart. Thanks to her, Biden can now rebuild the transatlantic alliance. Biden has the Chancellor to thank for Trump not being able to destroy everything. Of course he knows. Merkel’s farewell visit to his White House was something of a handover: Now the US President is again taking over the leadership of the free world. The role that Merkel never wanted, but tried to fill in the last four years because she saw it as her duty.

Now she can resign more easily, there is now someone in Washington who holds the democracies together.

It can be seen that two people met who understood each other. Their natures may be different: Biden is a Catholic Irishman with a penchant for pathos, Merkel the sober Prussian. But neither of them are eccentrics. They share a foundation of values. When it comes to the big questions of the world, they play on the same team. “A personal friend” was what Joe Biden called her, and she called him Joe and went on duet. In the end, Biden apologized that he had to end the press conference, dinner was waiting, and it sounded like he was really looking forward to dinner with Merkel.

Merkel just smiled quietly.

Merkel on her retirement: reading a book

Perhaps, as Chancellor, what remains of her is how she ruled. Your style. Government as a craft. No pomp, nowhere. Presumably, even in the autumn, when she resigns, she will not cry – like Gerhard Schröder back in 2005. Merkel has an overview of as much world politics as otherwise only Putin, she has seen an endless amount of history, as close as probably from 2005 to 2021 nobody else. She doesn’t seem like she has changed somehow as a result. At most she has perfected her routine. As before, she effortlessly speaks spontaneously the smallest details of the most impossible topics. Handicraft can also impress. Earlier in the day in Washington, Merkel received an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. When asked what she was planning after she left office, she actually allowed herself a personal statement. Merkel said she would read a book in the fall and then maybe fall asleep over it.

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