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Merkel Comes to Washington; Dual Challenges Await

June 24, 2009
WEIMAR, GERMANY - JUNE 05:  U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel visit the former Buchenwald concentration camp on June 5, 2009 near Weimar, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

WEIMAR, GERMANY - JUNE 05: U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel visit the former Buchenwald concentration camp on June 5, 2009 near Weimar, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Washington on Friday, where her tough agenda with President Obama includes time to discuss climate change and the financial crisis.

Compounding the already difficult program, however, are the contrasting views of the two leaders. On the financial crisis, Germany is still haunted by fears of the devastating effects of the hyperinflation from 1923. The US, on the other hand, is plagued by a nearly opposite fear of the stagnating economy of the 1929 Great Depression.

When it comes to climate change, there’s no getting around the fact that Germany – and it’s “climate change chancellor” – mean business. Merkel strongly believes that America and the Obama administration are not doing enough, and Merkel’s Environment Minister claimed recently that “America may have a black President, but Obama still needs to prove that he is also a green President.”

Despite these differences, Germany, like the rest of Europe, fear that Europe is being demoted in the world hierarchy and replaced by emerging economies such as China or India. Media-savvy Obama and his results-driven approach have spooked European politicians, who fear that if Obama does not get the results he wants out of Europe, he will be quick to look elsewhere.

So while Merkel comes to America armed with criticisms and differing viewpoints, she might be hesitant to express them. If she is too critical, and doesn’t “sell” Germany enough to America, then she risks being relegated to the international sidelines.

-Chris Hildebrand

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