Update 12:44 p.m.: Visit cancelled. The Secretary of State cancelled his visit only hours before he was supposed to arrive in Berlin. Officially, the State Department said Pompeo had urgent matters to deal with. But some German-language publications said the cancellation was scandalous and reflected the relations between Washington and Berlin.
Apart from Prince Charles and Lady Camilla, Berlin will welcome another high visitor today. From the United States of America, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be flying in, a year after he took office. Usually, Germany is one of the first countries new Secretaries of State visit. In this case, it is the 39th one.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has met his counterpart from Washington D.C. several times. But still, the late visit reflects the rather cool relations between Berlin and the Trump Administration.
Bluntly speaking, most of Berlin does not like President Trump, because he is being seen as an unreliable President with tantrums who changes his position all the time. The feeling seems to be mutual. Trumps keeps on snapping at the Berlin government, e.g. because of its trade surplus. The man in the Oval Office also threatens Germany’s automotive industry.
The difficult transatlantic relations, to say the least, are one reason why Chancellor Angelas Merkel will meet Secretary Pompeo. She would rather talk to a representative below her pay grade, as long as he knows what he is talking about, than with a counterpart. It is also a question of opportunity. There are pressing issues which need to be discussed.
Germany’s military spending is one of the main subjects Pompeo is expected to discuss with Merkel and Maas. Norbert Röttgen, a high-ranking Bundestag MP for Angela Merkel’s conservative party CDU, said it was time for Germany to live up to its obligations with NATO. The fact that Berlin has not done so, so far, is being criticized by the Americans, including Trump, on a regular basis.
Ahead of Pompeo’s arrival, Foreign Minister Maas said, pretty much all international subjects and conflicts could only be solved in a dialog with America. He stressed he wanted a close cooperation with the U.S.. With his colleague, he intends to discuss the situation in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
The latest attacks on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two terror organizations funded by Iran, is another subject which will likely be discussed. While Germany keeps on demanding “restraint” from “both sides”, the U.S. supports Israel in its struggle against terrorism, missile attacks and attempts to hurt the predominantly Jewish state diplomatically and economically.
Harsh criticism regarding the German-Russian ‘North Stream 2’ pipeline project has been voiced by Washington as well. One thing is certain: The Berlin government will not run out of subjects to talk about with their guest from the District of Columbia.
A press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Maas is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. CEST.