The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Germany’s Merkel has worked with four U.S. presidents. Here are some memorable moments.

Angela Merkel will step down as Germany's chancellor in September 2021. In that time, she's met with four sitting U.S. presidents. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, Loveday Morris/The Washington Post)
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BERLIN — From lavish barbecues with President George W. Bush to awkward moments with President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angel Merkel’s 16-year tenure has had many a candid moment with her U.S. counterparts.

Her visit to Washington to meet with President Biden on Thursday will be a final White House farewell in a career that has spanned four U.S. administrations. She has decided not to run in Germany’s September elections, opening the path for a new leader of Europe’s largest economy.

Merkel has always spoken admiringly of the United States. In a 2019 interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, she said that, growing up in communist East Germany, she had dreamed of visiting America.

“Because of its size, the diversity of it, the culture,” she said. “To see the Rocky Mountains, drive around and listen to Bruce Springsteen — that was my dream.”

But her relations with various U.S. presidents have had their own rough patches. When she came to power in 2005, U.S.-German relations were still recovering from Berlin’s opposition to the Iraq War. And Merkel and Bush did not see eye to eye on policies from Guantánamo Bay to actions to fight climate change. And even with President Barack Obama, with whom she developed a personal friendship, there were hurdles when it came to revelations that U.S. intelligence had tapped her calls.

With Trump, her feelings were often thinly veiled, including one iconic moment in 2018 that first appeared on Merkel’s official Instagram account showing her bearing down over a table with Trump on the other side with his arms folded over his chest.

Merkel has said that she looks forward to a “new chapter” of transatlantic relations under Biden, whom she knew from his time as vice president. They also met last month at the Group of Seven summit on England’s Cornish coast.

But another new chapter is also looming: one without Europe’s longest-serving leader.

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