| WASHINGTON, March 17
WASHINGTON, March 17 President Donald Trump
welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday for a White
House meeting that could help determine the future of the
transatlantic alliance and shape the working relationship
between two of the world's most powerful leaders.
The new U.S. president and the long-serving stateswoman,
whose country is Europe's largest economy, will discuss funding
for NATO and relations with Russia in their first meeting since
Trump took office in January.
The meeting is consequential for both sides.
Merkel, who officials say has prepared carefully for the
encounter, is likely to press Trump for assurances of support
for a strong European Union and a commitment to fight climate
Trump, who as a presidential candidate criticized Merkel for
allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees into Germany, will
seek her support for his demand that North Atlantic Treaty
Organization nations pay more for their defense needs.
Relationship building will be a less overt but important
agenda item. Merkel had close relations with Trump's Democratic
and Republican predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush,
and she is likely to seek a strong working relationship with
Trump despite major policy differences and wariness in Germany
about the former New York businessman.
"Those who know the chancellor know that she has a knack for
winning over people in personal discussions. I am sure that
Donald Trump will not be immune," said Juergen Hardt, a
conservative lawmaker who helps coordinate transatlantic
relations for the German government.
Trump is eager to see follow-through on his demand that
European countries shoulder more of the burden of paying for the
NATO alliance, which he has criticized.
He will also seek counsel from Merkel on how to deal with
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader Merkel has dealt with
extensively and whom Trump, to the consternation of Republican
and Democratic lawmakers, has praised.
"The president will be very interested in hearing the
chancellor's views on her experience interacting with Putin," a
senior administration official told reporters.
A U.S. official said the Trump administration's position on
U.S. participation in the Paris agreement to curb climate change
would likely come up in the Merkel meeting and be further
clarified in the weeks and months ahead. Merkel is a strong
supporter of international efforts to fight global warming.
Trump has called climate change a hoax and vowed during his
campaign to "cancel" the Paris agreement within 100 days, saying
it would be too costly for the U.S. economy.
Since being elected, he has been mostly quiet on the issue.
In a New York Times interview in November, he said he would keep
an open mind about the Paris deal.
Merkel is also likely to press Trump about U.S. support for
European security, despite assurances from Vice President Mike
Pence about that issue on his recent trip to Europe.
"There is still lingering doubt about ... how the U.S. sees
European security, and whether the U.S. sees its security and
Europe’s security as intrinsically linked and inseparable,"
Jeffrey Rathke, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic &
International Studies, told reporters.
(Additional reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Peter Cooney)