BERLIN – Foreign leaders often feign indifference to changes in American governments. But during his two-day visit to the German capital, Foreign Secretary Antony J. Blinken’s impotent hosts did little to hide their relief over the end of the Trump era and the revival of American relations with Germany.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas raved about a joint appearance with his counterpart in a chic Berlin beer garden on Thursday and remembered his first conversation with Mr Blinken after he became Foreign Minister.
“At the end of the call,” he said, “I couldn’t help saying, ‘Tony, I still have to get used to the fact that I can talk to the US Secretary of State and always be the same.” View – because it used to be different was. ‘”
Germany, said Maas, was “very happy that the US is now on our side again”. Then, after explaining the global importance of this layer, Mr. Maas paused with a tall glass of beer in front of him.
“It’s more fun too,” he added.
The day before, the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded visibly relieved next to Mr Blinken.
“We are pleased that the American states, to quote the American President Joe Biden, are back on the international, multilateral stage,” said Merkel. She and President Biden, she said, “could have agreed on a common approach to global problems.
That was rarely the case in Germany when it came to President Donald J. Trump.
And so Blinken’s visit underscored the German joy at the departure of an American president who was hostile to Germany, a European economic power and important NATO ally, and described it as an economic competitor and free rider among the American defense. After the resignation of Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, a member of Ms. Merkel’s party even said that Mr. Grenell acted like “the representative of a hostile power”.
Mr. Blinken made it clear that those days are over.
“I think it is fair to say that the United States has no better partner, no better friend in the world than Germany,” he told Maas on Wednesday at a joint appearance at the German Foreign Ministry, a mixture of joy and pride.
Mr. Blinken’s visit was followed by President Biden’s first trip to Europe as President of several days, during which he announced the return to America’s traditional transatlantic leadership role. Mr Biden’s itinerary did not include Germany, but he met Ms. Merkel twice at meetings of European leaders and plans to receive Ms. Merkel at the White House next month.
“The new American government has reached out and we should take it,” said Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier before leaving for a visit to Washington on Wednesday, according to Deutsche Welle.
Behind the scenes, however, it wasn’t just happy hours and happy conversation.
Mr Blinken and Mr Biden are strongly opposed to completing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, saying it will give Moscow an impact on Europe’s energy security and threaten Ukraine, which makes around $ 1 billion annually on an existing one Pipeline that Russia might at some point no longer be able to use.
Mr Biden waived Congressional sanctions last month against the Russian company that built the pipeline and its German CEO, effectively admitting that there was an attempt to halt the project – at the time Mr Biden took office started, was more than 90 percent complete – not worth the probable cost of German-American relations.
Now American and German officials are discussing ways to mitigate Russian benefits from the project, including trying to ensure the Kremlin “cannot use gas as a coercive weapon against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this month .
Neither man wanted to give more details about these conversations. After hearing several questions on this subject during his performance with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Maas smiled weakly.
“We can probably save the world as a whole, but people would still ask us about Nord Stream 2,” said Maas. “Well, we have to accept it and live with it.”
German officials celebrated America’s engagement at a Wednesday conference on the future of Libya, attended by Mr Blinken and other State Department officials, including U.S. Envoy for Libya Richard Norland.
The United States was a half-hearted participant in the first conference of its kind, held in January 2020. Mr Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, made a brief appearance at the event and left the country before it was completed.
On Wednesday, Mr Maas said Wednesday that the Biden administration was “very committed to this dossier”, adding in an implicit dig by the Trump team, “much more active than we expected in recent years”.
After years of civil war and military intervention by foreign powers – including Egypt, Russia, Turkey and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – Libya is trying to find influence on a stable and independent political base after the 2011 coup of his long-time dictator Muammar el-Gaddafi.
Wednesday’s conference, at which a group of nations reiterated previous calls for Libya to hold elections scheduled for December 24th and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country, brought little new progress.
A senior administrative official said behind the scenes that one obstacle was Turkey’s insistence on its military trainers being legally in the country under an agreement with a previous Libyan government. However, US officials are hoping that as a first confidence-building measure, an agreement could be drawn up that would allow several hundred mercenaries, each representing different factions in the country’s recent battle, to be returned to their homes.
On Thursday morning, Mr. Blinken visited the haunting memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin to commemorate the beginning of a joint German-American “dialogue” on Holocaust issues, which is intended to combat increasing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
“We help present and future generations learn about the Holocaust and learn from it,” said Blinken of his late stepfather Samuel Pisar, a survivor of the Nazi camp who lost his family in the Holocaust.
The day ended happily, however, when Mr. Blinken and Mr. Maas – sitting on stools under an outer tent, shorn jackets and ties and sipping beer – answered questions from current and former participants in the German-American educational exchange programs. (Mr Blinken, who joked that he was given a smaller glass on request, just seemed to take a sip.)
Mr. Blinken, a lifelong musician, remembered taking a road trip to Hamburg as a teenager while living in Paris and doing an improvised series there with his rock band, whose other members he called “talented, unlike me” played from gigs in a bar. ”
Mr Maas and Mr Pompeo had civil relations, but it was clear that the German diplomat, born a year after Mr Blinken, had a special chemistry with the new Foreign Minister.
“I’m very excited to see that the two of you seem to be very, very good friends,” remarked one law student who asked a question. “And that gives me hope for the future of German-American cooperation.”
Melissa Eddy contributed to the coverage.