German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not among the crowd aghast at President Donald Trump’s invitation to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin later this year.
Instead, she welcomed news that Trump had asked his Russian counterpart to reprise their recent Helsinki summit in Washington.
“I think it should become normal again for Russia and American presidents to meet,” Merkel told a news conference in Berlin on Friday, according to Reuters.
The White House revealed in a surprise announcement Thursday that Trump had asked his national security adviser, John Bolton, to invite Putin to Washington in the fall. The move came just days after Trump set off a media firestorm in response to his joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki Monday, during which he appeared to back the Russian president’s claim that the Kremlin did not meddle in the 2016 presidential election. (RELATED: Trump Invites Putin Back To Washington, DC, For First Time Since 2001)
Trump’s performance in Helsinki was widely denounced in influential foreign policy circles, and on Wednesday he walked back his remarks, claiming he had meant to say there was no reason to believe Russia hadn’t interfered in the election. But the outrage reignited the next day over news of another possible summit, with some commentators suggesting it was further evidence that Trump is beholden to Putin in some way.
Merkel, who grew up in East Germany during the Cold War, offered a different perspective on Friday. She noted that Washington and Moscow have historically kept up dialogue at the presidential level even when they appeared to be implacable enemies.
“That’s why I’m happy about every meeting,” she told reporters, according to The Associated Press.
Merkel’s remarks come as the U.S. and the European Union are embroiled in a trade spat over the treatment of American imports. Trump had been particularly hard on Berlin, accusing it of denying American manufacturers access to German markets make while reneging on its defense spending commitments.
The dispute has sparked concerns that the traditionally strong transatlantic relationship between Washington and Europe may be fraying under Trump’s watch. Merkel, who has offered only measured criticism of her American counterpart in public, said Friday she will “continue to nurture” Germany’s relationship with the U.S.
Cooperation results in “win-win” situations for both countries, she added.
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