Biden tells Merkel he wants to revitalize Germany alliance

President Joe Biden answers questions from reporters in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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President Joe Biden told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday that he is looking to revitalize the transatlantic alliance with Germany, a relationship that became strained under former President Donald Trump.

The new president has made a series of calls to his foreign counterparts in recent days as part of his efforts to recalibrate U.S. relationships around the globe after four years of Trump's more inward-looking “America First" policy.

The White House said in a statement that Biden conveyed that he viewed the U.S. partnership with NATO and the European Union “as the cornerstone of our collective security and shared democratic values."

Trump and Merkel's relationship started off icy and remained cool throughout Trump's term.

After meetings with Trump in 2017, Merkel said Europe could no longer completely rely on its allies and must become more independent.

After the 2018 NATO summit, Trump called for members to devote at least 4% of their GDP to military spending and took particular aim at Merkel, whom he accused of paying Russia “billions of dollars for gas and energy” while failing to meet her nation’s commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for the German government, said in a statement regarding the call that Merkel welcomed Biden's decisions in the first day of his presidency to rejoin the World Health Organization and Paris climate agreement. Trump had withdrawn the U.S. from the international health agency and climate accord signed by nearly every nation to limit global warming.

Merkel has spoken positively of Biden's election.

Last week, the chancellor said that “there is simply a much broader political overlap with President Biden” than with Trump. But Merkel cautioned that not everything will be smooth — in line with her long track record of keeping public expectations low.

“There will be differences of opinion with the Biden administration, too,” she said.

One issue that will likely continue to be contentious is a German-Russian gas pipeline project, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea. It faces bipartisan opposition in Washington.

Neither side mentioned the project in their statements on the leaders' call.

Biden has also spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Merkel invited Biden to visit Germany as soon as the pandemic situation allowed, Seibert said.