- The Washington Times
Thursday, July 15, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris is hosting Angela Merkel for breakfast on Thursday as the departing German chancellor enjoys a swan song in Washington and President Biden tries to stabilize relations with the European power.

The meeting marks the first time Ms. Harris hosted a foreign leader at her Naval Observatory residence.

Ms. Merkel has served as chancellor since 2005 but is not seeking another term, likely making this her last official visit to the U.S. before she exits the political stage in October.

Greeting her in the driveway, Ms. Harris praised Ms. Merkel‘s “extraordinary” career while the German leader, speaking through an interpreter, said she was excited to meet the first “madam vice president” of the U.S.

Over gruyere soufflés, sourdough bread and a salami plate, Ms. Harris told Ms. Merkel that democracies are “in peril” and their nations must live up to their shared values, according to the vice president’s office.

She will describe Germany as a close friend of the U.S. — not just a trading partner and ally — and remark on how the alliance spawned the COVID-19 vaccine produced by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German company BioNTech.

Later Thursday, Johns Hopkins University will give Ms. Merkel an honorary degree before she heads to the White House for meetings with Mr. Biden.

Part of the Christian Democratic Union, Ms. Merkel has held considerable sway over the European Union and the broader world as chancellor.

She’s worked with four U.S. presidents, starting with George W. Bush, and Mr. Biden is expected to bring up climate change, COVID-19 vaccine-sharing and security issues in places like Afghanistan and Libya.

The president is trying to smooth relations with Germany after a rocky period during the Trump administration.

Mr. Biden halted the planned withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Germany. He also waived sanctions on the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that takes gas from Russia to Germany, a move that congressional Republicans dubbed a “baffling” gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Senior administration officials said the decision on the nearly completed pipeline gave them “diplomatic space” to address ongoing concerns they have about Russia using the project as a “coercive tool” against Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referenced the stakes in a tweet that said the Merkel-Biden meeting can “change the future of Europe.”

“Values, principles & security can’t be exchanged for economic interests. I believe that our American and German partners will jointly oppose the aggressor, not encourage it. And no decision on Ukraine without Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky wrote, using flag emojis in place of county names.

Also Thursday, Mr. Biden is expected to focus on China and ways to dial up pressure on the communist superpower’s trade practices, though the German leader might not be interested in disengaging from its key economic partner in Asia.

Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, urged Mr. Biden to take a hard line on both topics.

“President Biden must use this meeting to encourage Chancellor Merkel to adopt a more clear-eyed policy toward Vladimir Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the malign actions of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. McCaul said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Merkel‘s planned departure has set off jockeying back home over who can fill her shoes. Armin Laschet, the 60-year-old elected leader of the Christian Democratic Union in January, is considered the front-runner.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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