11 photos show how close Merkel was with Obama, and how different things are with Trump

The NATO summit in Brussels has put the strained relationship between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel back in the spotlight.

Over the past year and a half, Trump has consistently attacked Germany over trade and accused them of not contributing their fair share to NATO’s budget, leading to several tense interactions between him and Merkel.

Based on Trump’s remarks at a Wednesday breakfast meeting with NATO’s general secretary, things won’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” Trump said. “You tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened. And I think we have to talk to Germany about it.”

It seems hard to believe that less than two years ago, Germany was one of the US’ closest allies, and Merkel was working harmoniously with former President Barack Obama.

Merkel and Obama not only shared perspectives on various issues – they were also close friends. These 11 photos show just how different Merkel’s relationship has been with the two American presidents.

Trump and Merkel’s relationship got off to a rocky start. After months of harshly criticising Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis on the campaign trial, the two leaders had an awkward first meeting at the White House in March 2017.

While Obama defended Merkel’s immigration policies as president, Trump had previously accused Merkel of “ruining Germany” by admitting Syrian refugees. He even suggested his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton would be “America’s Merkel.”

At their first time meeting face-to-face at the White House in March 2017, awkwardness ensued when Trump appeared to ignore Merkel asking him for a handshake during their photo-op in the Oval Office.

Trump later claimed not to have heard her or the photographers asking them to shake hands.

Sources: Business Insider, ABC, The Independent

During the previous 8 years when Obama was president, the US and Germany worked together on important global issues — including responding to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, tackling ISIS and the refugee crisis, and recovering from the global financial meltdown.

Obama embraces Merkel at the G20 Summit in 2011. White House/Pete Souza

Obama and Merkel also developed a close diplomatic partnership and friendship.

“She is giving voice, I think, to the kinds of principles that bring people together rather than divide them, and I’m very proud of her for that, and I’m proud of the German people for that,” Obama said in a 2016 speech in Germany while reflecting on his time working with Merkel.

Source: Business Insider

Trump, on the other hand, does not see eye-to-eye with Merkel on many issues. He has consistently decried the US’ trade deficit with Germany, which comes out to around $US65 billion.

In May 2017, Merkel launched a subtle jab at Trump, saying at a campaign event: “The times in which we could fully rely on others are partly over. I have experienced this in the last few days. We Europeans really have to take our destiny into our own hands.”

Trump then hit back on Twitter a few days later, writing, “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

But economists say the trade deficit is not necessarily a bad thing, because while Americans spend more on German goods, Germans tend to save at a higher rate, meaning that much of those savings end up being invested in the United States economy.

Source: Washington Post, Business Insider, Twitter

Obama presented Merkel with the US medal of freedom of 2011, calling her “a good friend and one of my closest global partners.”

Merkel welcomes Obama upon his arrival at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany on November 17, 2016. White House via Flikr

While Obama and Merkel’s relationship came briefly under strain in 2013 when leaked NSA documents revealed the US may have wiretapped Merkel’s cell phone, relations improved again after the two leaders found common ground on major world issues.

“You have been a trusted partner throughout my entire presidency – longer than any world leader – and I value your judgment,” Obama told Merkel in 2016. “I thank you for your commitment to our alliance and to the values and human rights for which we stand. And I’m grateful for our personal friendship.”

Sources: BBC, The White House

Merkel and Trump haven’t worked together as smoothly. This now-viral photo shows Merkel and other leaders pressing Trump at the 2018 G7 summit. They wanted him to sign the joint communiqué, which he later refused to endorse.

The German Federal Government released this photo of Merkel, Trump, and other world leaders at the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada on June 9, 2018. German Federal Government/Jesco Denzel via Associated Press

Source: Business Insider

In contrast, Obama and Merkel were able to have fun at their international summits. Here, they experience a virtual reality headset in a diplomatic meeting in Hannover, Germany.

Source: Business Insider

Also at the G7 summit in Canada, Trump reportedly threw Starburst candies on the table and said, “Here Angela, don’t say I never give you anything,” before leaving in a huff.

Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer described the scene:

“Trump was sitting there with his arms crossed, clearly not liking the fact that he felt like they were ganging up on him. He eventually agreed; he said OK, he’ll sign it,” Bremmer said. “At that point, he stood up, he put his hand in his pocket – his suit jacket pocket – and he took two Starburst candies out, threw them on the table, and said to Merkel: ‘Here, Angela. Don’t say I never give you anything.'”

Trump left the G7 summit early, and later rejected the communiqué entirely.

Sources: Business Insider, CBS News

Obama regularly gushed over Merkel.

“They have worked together on almost every issue. They have developed a deep mutual respect, I think, and close friendship as well,” Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes told ABC. “He wanted to see Chancellor Merkel one more time to thank her for her partnership and leadership.”

During their very last joint press conference in November 2016, Obama said of Merkel: “In terms of our core values, in terms of her integrity, her truthfulness, her thoughtfulness, her doing her homework, knowing her facts … I think she’s been outstanding.”

Source: Business Insider

Before the NATO summit even formally began, Trump made another jab at Germany. “Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” he said. “Because they’re getting between 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.”

Merkel and Trump on July 11 at the NATO summit. Fox News

Merkel then hit back, referencing her own childhood in East Germany, which was then under the control of the Soviet Union.

“I have experienced myself how a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union,” she said. “I’m very glad that today we are united in freedom … because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions.”

Sources: Business Insider, Reuters

When Obama’s time as president was coming to an end, Merkel was sad to see him go.

“Now, taking leave from my partner and friend, well, yes, it is hard,” she said. “If you’ve worked together with somebody very well, leave-taking is very difficult.”

Source: Business Insider

Trump backtracked his comments about Germany being “controlled” by Russia later on Wednesday by complimenting Merkel, but only time will tell if that will be enough to smooth things over by the time the summit ends.

Trump and Merkel spoke privately about their issues in a “pull-aside” meeting later on Wednesday.

Afterward, Trump said the US has “a tremendous relationship with Germany.”

“I’m very much looking forward to further extending our exchanges in the future and enhancing them,” Merkel said. “I think they’re very important to have those exchanges together. Because after all, we are partners, we are good partners, and we wish to continue to cooperate in the future.”

Source: BusinessInsider