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Merkel Visits The U.S.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington. D.C., today for talks with President Trump. She comes on the heels of French president Macron and is reinforcing a similar message, do not rip up the Iran nuclear deal. There are also big trade differences to grapple with. But Merkel has a very different relationship with President Trump than the seemingly chummy one Macron has been able to develop. To talk more about this, we reached Stefan Kornelius. He is foreign editor of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

STEFAN KORNELIUS: This relationship is loaded with problems, with misunderstandings and with differences. Both politicians are as different as one could imagine. So don't expect any physical intimacies, any kind of...

MARTIN: Right, no handholding for these two. Yeah.

KORNELIUS: Those two will have a rough time talking about their differences, which are there.

MARTIN: President Trump has until May 12 to decide whether or not to recertify the Iran deal. If he doesn't, what does that mean for the European partners?

KORNELIUS: The Europeans are threatening right now not to follow Trump on increased sanctions and on more pressure on Iran if he's not holding onto the nuclear deal. So it's really posing the question of all questions, how much transatlanticism is there? How much jointness will there be on Iran or actually, in the broader sense, in the Middle East? Probably, the Western alliance will fall apart in its policy over the Middle East. And that would be a huge, major blow to its impact in that region and basically a huge, huge success and win for Russia.

MARTIN: I mean, she inevitably is going to want to talk about trade as well in light of the steel and aluminum tariffs. The EU clearly doesn't want a trade war with the U.S. Germany doesn't want a trade war with the U.S. So if Trump doesn't scale back his protectionism, what is Germany's next move?

KORNELIUS: Well, the next move is to keep Europe together and not to be separated. Europe is doing all this trade issues jointly. It's a European Union thing and not a German thing. So if the administration decides to go on that kind of trade war, there will be a trade war with all of the EU, which is a much larger trading bloc than simply Germany and which is definitely not to the liking of both sides.

MARTIN: Climate change - is that going to be on Chancellor Merkel's agenda? I mean, Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord. Is she going to try to convince him that the U.S. should come back in?

KORNELIUS: I don't think so. This is not the time she wants to spend on this. It's not on the agenda right now. However, there's one major agenda which we do foresee, and this is defense and defense spending. Germany's lagging far behind of the 2 percent goal of NATO; 1.2, actually, is what we are right now. And the U.S. is pressing on all fronts for Germany to increase here. The German budget doesn't provide for it. The German domestic situation doesn't provide for it. The coalition here does not like increasing. So there will be a huge clash, and Angela Merkel is definitely on the defense side.

MARTIN: Yeah. And that's something President Trump has talked a lot about, lambasting Germany in particular for that.

Stefan Kornelius, foreign editor at the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, thank you so much for talking with us.

KORNELIUS: Well, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.