German ambassador downplays tensions with U.S.

Julia Munslow
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump. (Photos: Sean Gallup/Getty Images – Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

The German ambassador to the U.S. insisted Wednesday that Germany has a “healthy relationship” with the U.S. despite recently perceived tensions between the countries following comments made by their leaders after last week’s NATO and G7 summits.

“They have a good and productive relationship,” Ambassador Peter Wittig said of President Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel, citing frequent phone calls between the two leaders and visits in Washington, D.C., and Europe. During the campaign, Trump frequently criticized Merkel, whom he accused of “ruining Germany.”

“There are few leaders as committed to the transatlantic relations as Chancellor Merkel is to the friendship with the United States,” the German ambassador said in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “That has not changed with President Trump.”

The ambassador’s comments follow remarks made by the two leaders that suggest a strained relationship between the allies.

After his return from the global summits, Trump tweeted Tuesday that the U.S. has a “MASSIVE trade deficit” with Germany, a country that he added “pay[s] FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military.”

On Sunday, Merkel called for Europeans to “take their fate into their own hands.”

“We must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans,” Merkel said, a comment some perceived as directed toward Trump, who awkwardly criticized NATO leaders for not meeting funding obligations. Trump made the comments directly to the U.S. allies while visiting a summit for the transatlantic alliance last weekend.

But Merkel has made similar comments facing crises such as Brexit, her ambassador said.

As a leader committed to transatlantic relations, Merkel will continue to “discuss honestly differences of opinion” including issues such as climate change and burden-sharing in NATO, Wittig said.

Not long after the interview, multiple outlets reported Wednesday that Trump intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate deal, which is strongly backed by European leaders. Trump tweeted that he would decide whether to ditch the agreement over the next few days.

The German ambassador also said his country is committed to incrementally raise its defense budget per agreements among NATO leaders. A guideline for the alliance is for member countries to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their own defense each year.

“We have a good basis that we work on, on a daily basis,” he said. “This is a healthy relationship.”

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