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Trump and Merkel Need to Find a Way to Work Together

Author: Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Fellow
March 13, 2017
Foreign Policy

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One of the most important meetings of Donald Trump’s young presidency will take place on Tuesday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to Washington. Europe is America’s most important partner and Germany guides Europe. This meeting of the top two leaders of the free world will help determine whether the West survives the next four years.

So far, Trump has been on a collision course with Merkel, breaking with her on a range of core issues — the European Union, NATO, immigration, trade, Russia, the nuclear deal with Iran, and climate change. The sources of this divergence run deep. Trump aims to shake up the establishment and undermine the center as he delivers on promises to his populist base. Merkel aims to reassure the establishment and consolidate the center in order to neutralize the populists. Trump is noisy and impulsive. Merkel is quiet and steady.

But find common ground they must. The future of the West hangs in the balance. During his meeting with Merkel, Trump should demonstrate his professed mastery of the “art of the deal.” With German elections coming in September, Merkel wants to demonstrate that she can tame Trump and preserve the close ties with Washington forged during the Barack Obama presidency. It will take some hard swallowing, but the terms of a compromise between these two leaders are within reach.

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