“It’s more fun”: Germany gives Blinken an enthusiastic welcome


BERLIN – Foreign leaders often feign indifference to changes in US governments. But during his two-day visit to the German capital, the swooning hosts of Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken did little to hide their relief at the end of the Trump era and the rejuvenation of American links with Germany.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was virtually delighted with a joint appearance with his counterpart at a posh beer garden in Berlin on Thursday, recalling his first conversation with Mr Blinken after he became secretary of the ‘State.

“At the end of the phone call,” he said, “I couldn’t help but say, ‘Tony, I still have to get used to the fact that I can talk to the US minister of government. Foreign Affairs and always having the same view – because it was different before.

Germany, said Maas, is “very happy that the United States is on our side again.” Then, after explaining the global significance of this change, Mr. Maas, a tall glass of beer in front of him, stopped.

“It’s more fun too,” he added.

A day earlier, standing next to Mr Blinken, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel also looked clearly relieved.

“We are delighted that American states, to quote US President Joe Biden, are back on the international and multilateral stage,” Merkel said. She and President Biden, she said, were able to “agree on a common approach to global problems.”

This has rarely been the case for Germany when it comes to President Donald J. Trump.

Mr Blinken’s visit therefore underlined German happiness at the departure of an American president who adopted an antagonistic approach towards Germany, a European economic power and a key ally of NATO, calling it an economic competitor and a passenger. clandestine under the aegis of 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 had acted as “the representative of a hostile power”.

Mr. Blinken made it clear that those days are over.

“I think it’s fair to say that the United States has no better partner, no better friend in the world than Germany,” he told Mr Maas during an appearance. joint with the German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, remarks which were met in Berlin with a mixture of pleasure and pride.

Mr Blinken’s visit followed on days after President Biden’s first trip to Europe as president, in which he proclaimed the return of America’s traditional transatlantic leadership role. Mr Biden’s itinerary did not include Germany, but he has twice met Merkel at European leaders’ gatherings and plans to welcome Merkel to the White House next month.

“The new US government has reached out, and we must seize it,” German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said before visiting Washington on Wednesday, according to German publication Deutsche Welle.

Behind the scenes, however, it wasn’t all happy hours and happy discussions.

Mr Blinken and Mr Biden strongly oppose the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany, saying it will provide Moscow with leverage over Europe’s energy security and threaten Ukraine, which earns about $ 1 billion a year from a pipeline that Russia could eventually stop using.

Last month, Biden lifted Congressional sanctions against the Russian company building the pipeline and its German managing director, effectively conceding an effort to stop the project – which was over 90 percent complete by the time Mr. Biden took office – not worth it. the likely cost to US-German relations.

Now US and German officials are discussing ways to mitigate the Russian advantages of the project, including trying to ensure that the Kremlin cannot “use gas as a coercive weapon against Ukraine or any other person”, such as Mr Blinken said this earlier to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. this month.

Neither man would provide more details on these discussions. After hearing several questions on the subject during his appearance with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Maas smiled weakly.

“We are probably able to save the world as a whole, but people would still ask us about Nord Stream 2,” said Maas. “Well, we’ll have to accept it and live with it.”

German officials celebrated the United States’ commitment at a conference Wednesday on the future of Libya at which Mr. Blinken and other State Department officials, including U.S. envoy to Libya Richard Norland, attended.

The United States half-heartedly participated in the first of these conferences, held in January 2020. Mr. Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, made a cameo appearance at the event and left the country ahead of his visit. conclusion.

On Wednesday, Maas said on Wednesday that the Biden administration was “very committed to this file,” adding, in an implicit dig to the Trump team, “much more active than we expected in recent years.”

Libya is trying to find a stable and independent political base after years of civil war and military intervention by foreign powers – including Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – competing for the influence after the 2011 overthrow of its long-time dictator, Muammar el-Gaddafi.

Wednesday’s conference, in which a group of nations reaffirmed earlier calls for Libya to hold elections slated for December 24 and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country, produced little new progress.

A senior administration official, speaking on the merits, said one obstacle was Turkey’s insistence that its military trainers were legitimately in the country under a deal with a previous government Libyan. But U.S. officials are hopeful that a deal could be reached in which a few hundred mercenary fighters, each representing different factions in the country’s recent struggle, could be repatriated as an initial confidence-building measure.

On Thursday morning, Mr Blinken visited the haunting Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to commemorate the start of a joint German-American “dialogue” on Holocaust issues to combat rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

“We are helping to ensure that present and future generations know about and learn from the Holocaust,” said Blinken, telling the story of his late father-in-law, Samuel Pisar, a survivor of the Nazi camp who lost his family during the Holocaust.

The day ended on a happy note, however, as Mr Blinken and Mr Maas – perched on stools under an outer tent, stripped of jackets and ties, and sipping beer – answered questions from attendees. current and former at the American-German Educational Exchange. programs. (Mr Blinken, who joked that he was given a smaller drink on request, appeared to take a single sip.)

A longtime musician, Mr Blinken recalled taking a road trip to Hamburg while living in Paris as a teenager and found himself playing a series of impromptu concerts at a bar there. down with his rock band, whose other members he called “talented, unlike me.” “

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 alchemy with the new secretary of state.

“I’m very happy to see that you both seem to be very, very good friends,” observed a law student who asked a question. “And that gives me hope for the future of German-American cooperation.”

Melissa Eddy contributed reports.

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