Of all the world leaders, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has been the one most reluctant to embrace the Donald Trump presidency over the past four years.The two have clashed repeatedly over NATO; had tense, argumentative phone calls, including one in which Trump reportedly called Merkel “stupid”; and have had conflicts over Germany’s liberal immigration policy and Trump’s contrasting travel ban on Muslims.
More recently, Merkel sharply criticized the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “As we are experiencing firsthand, you cannot fight the pandemic with lies and disinformation any more than you can fight it with hate or incitement to hatred,” Merkel said in July, in comments that were widely seen as a rebuke of Trump. “The limits of populism and denial of basic truths are being laid bare.”
And in August, Merkel seemed to be struggling to hold back her laughter when a reporter asked whether it was true, as reported by Richard Grennell, the former ambassador to Germany, that Trump had “charmed” her.
“He did what?” she asked the reporter.
“Charmed,” repeated the reporter.
“Ah, OK,” Merkel said, looking bemused. Then she added with a laugh, “I don’t talk about internal discussions.”
— Thomas Sparrow (@Thomas_Sparrow) August 28, 2020
On Monday, she made the starkest break yet with the incumbent president, giving a surprisingly moving and personal speech congratulating Joe Biden on his presidential victory (and thus ignoring Trump’s preposterous claims that the vote was a fraud and would be overturned), welcoming the former vice president back to the world stage.
Other leaders, including Great Britain’s Boris Johnson, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron, and even the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have issued statements of congratulations this week, but none used the occasion quite like Merkel to comment on the state of global relations and the challenges faced by the new U.S. president, many of them created by his predecessor.
And, notably, she never once mentioned the name of the man Biden will replace in the White House, all but erasing Donald Trump from the narrative.
Instead, in her roughly five minute speech, in which she talked about the long, complicated history of German-American relations—evoking both the stain of the Nazi regime and the joyous moment in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell—she spoke of her friendly relationship with Biden when he served under Barack Obama, saying she recalled “good encounters and talks” with the former vice president. She congratulated Biden on his victory “very warmly.”
Merkel also noted the historic achievement of Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected vice president of the United States, calling her an”inspiration” and symbol “of what is possible in America.”
Acknowledging the crucial relationship Germany has with the United States, calling it “our most important ally,” Merkel praised Biden as someone who has “decades of experience in foreign policy” and who knows Germany well, adding, “We are allies in NATO, we share fundamental values … and interests.”
“The United States of America and Germany, as part of the European Union, must stand together in order to face the great challenges of our time,” Merkel said, listing the pandemic, climate change, the fight against terrorism and free trade as key issues to be addressed—all ones over which she and Trump have disagreed over.
Most notably, at a G-7 conference in 2018 that was devoted to climate change, Merkel clashed with Trump, who has made a point of either ignoring or dismissing the issue of global warming. At one point, Merkel was captured leaning over a table, seemingly lecturing the U.S. president, as other world leaders, including Macron of France and Shinzo Abe of Japan looked on. That photo was released by the German government and quickly went viral, with Time describing the president as looking “like he’s getting grilled, taken to task for not acting like his predecessor.”
Biden will be the fourth U.S. president that Merkel – who has led Germany since 2005 – has dealt with as chancellor. She has already announced she will not run for re-election.
You can watch the full video here:
This video of Chancellor Merkel congratulating @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris is worth your time. Merkel talks about German history, the role of the United States and much more. Take a look:pic.twitter.com/6t7pEYgVOZ
— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) November 9, 2020