WASHINGTON — In her final appearance at the White House before retiring this fall, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joe Biden met on Thursday and expressed optimism for the future of relations between the United States and Germany.
After their private meeting in the Oval Office, the pair held a joint press conference to take questions from reporters. The President said matters such as Nord Stream 2, a dispute between the United States and Germany over a Russian gas pipeline, were discussed. Also with other key issues such as Russian hacking and climate change.
“While I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, Chancellor Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors,” Biden said.
He added: “My view on Nord Stream 2 has been known for some time. Good friends can disagree, but by the time I became president, it was 90% completed and imposing sanctions did not seem to make any sense.”
The United States has said the Nord Stream 2 project will threaten European energy security by increasing the reliance on Russia, allowing them to apply political pressure on the surrounding countries, particularly Ukraine. Biden waived sanctions against German entities involved in the project, a decision that angered both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
“Our idea is and remains that Ukraine remains a transit country for natural gas, that Ukraine just as any other country in the world has a right to territorial sovereignty,” Merkel said.
A reporter questioned Biden about why he has not lifted the travel ban on Germany. He responded by saying the German Chancellor also questioned him on the issue in their meeting and said he spoke with his coronavirus task force to discuss the issue and that he will give an answer in a few day’s time.
Merkel’s visit comes as she is set to depart her role as chancellor of Germany in October, a position she has held for over 15 years. Questions remain about the future of the relations between the U.S. and Germany after Merkel leaves.
“Madam Chancellor, I know that the partnership between the Germany and United States will only continue to grow stronger on the foundation you helped to build. On a personal note, I must tell you I’ll miss seeing you at our summits. I truly will,” Biden said.
Biden and his wife will host Merkel and her husband for dinner at the White House along with notable guests Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, and Republican Senate and House leaders, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.