May trumps Merkel in relationship with US president

Kevin Rawlinson
Donald Trump and Angela Merkel at a joint news conference at the White House on Friday. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Hand-holding vs handshake

Donald Trump was famously pictured holding the hand of the British prime minister, Theresa May, when she became the first foreign leader to visit the White House since his inauguration, but he was significantly colder towards Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Merkel appeared to lean towards Trump, who has heavily criticised many of her policies, to ask him if he wanted to shake hands for the cameras. Trump, aside from a slight raise of the eyebrows and a shuffle in his seat, completely ignored Merkel, who looked bemused by the snub.

“Opposites attract” vs words of warning

“I’ve always thought it is better to talk to one another, rather than about one another,” Merkel said, turning to look at Trump. She may have said beforehand that it was a pleasure to meet him, but this was a barely veiled dig at a president who has repeatedly criticised her on the campaign trail.

The British prime minister, who had faced little or no criticism from Trump as he campaigned for the presidency, was forced to fend off questions about the wisdom of becoming the first foreign leader to meet with such a divisive president. “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?” she told journalists during the flight over the Atlantic.

May’s win vs Merkel’s score draw

May was able to come away from the US trumpeting a guarantee from Trump that he supported Nato, despite his having earlier called it an obsolete institution. While Merkel was able to extract a similar show of support for Nato from the US president, it came with strings attached. Trump said he had “reiterated strong support for Nato, as well as the need for our allies to pay their fair share”. He accused other nations of owing “vast sums”, which was unfair on the US. They “must pay what they owe”, he warned.

Special relationship vs strained relationship

“This was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship,” Trump joked after May called upon the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who rose to her feet to ask a particularly tough question. There was raucous laughter in the room.

“Would you like to go first? Nice friendly reporter,” Trump said after Merkel called upon a reporter from the German Press Agency, who asked a similarly tough question. This time almost no one was laughing.

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