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It has been nearly a week since President Joe Biden was inaugurated. World powers across the globe now hope that he will reset relations, especially those in Europe. America’s last four years have been characterised by former President Donald Trump’s moving away from forging ties with other liberal democracies.
Communications had effectively broken down between the US and Europe.
Even the UK – historically, one of America’s closest allies – had moved to distance itself from “Trumpism”.
With Mr Biden a vocal supporter of the EU, reports suggest there is now hope in Germany, “shared optimism”, that the US will reopen the fabled trans-Atlantic bridge.
Angela Merkel, however, quickly made sure the central European country did not appear overly desperate.
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Soon after Mr Biden’s inauguration, she told reporters: “Don’t think that from tomorrow there will only be harmony between us.”
Mrs Merkel may not have much say in how the US-Germany relationship pans out, as she was last week replaced as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) by centrist Armin Laschet.
Many now note that while it is difficult to predict how Mr Laschet will engage with Mr Biden, looking back on the German politician’s previous rhetoric might offer some clue as to how their relationship will develop, and potentially collide.
Most notable is a tweet Mr Laschet wrote in 2014, in response to then US Secretary of State, John Kerry.
It came as the threat of ISIS loomed large in the Middle East, and Mr Kerry wrote: “ISIL must be destroyed/will be crushed.”
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Mr Laschet, who was then MP for North Rhine-Westphalia, replied: “Yes, Mr Kerry, but You supported ISIS and Al Nusra against President Assad in Syria.
“And they are financed by Qatar and Saudi-Arabia.”
He added: “Assad was fighting against ISIS and Kerry tried to weaken Assad in this fight.”
Mr Laschet’s line has been described as a “conspiracy theory” which pushes an element of legitimacy onto the country’s President – who has been described as a dictator – Bashar al-Assad.
He went on to claim that many of the victims of the Syrian war were “killed by rebels and al Nusra terrorists”, and not overwhelmingly by Assad and his forces.
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According to a study carried out by the Syrian Network for Human Rights, from 2011 to 2020, 226,247 civilians were killed in conflict.
Of these, 88.3 percent were carried out by the Syrian regime and Iranian militias, while a combined 2.4 percent were inflicted by ISIS and other extremist Islamist groups.
His opposition to the US in Syria is just one of a number of things that could come between him and Mr Biden.
In Germany, Mr Laschet has been described as a Russlandversteher – someone who is sympathetic towards Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
The biggest conflict with the US is Mr Laschet’s – and Germany’s in general – acceptance of trade with China.
As Premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Mr Laschet has spent much of his career calling for the need to protect German export industries.
His views look set to fit in with the EU following the bloc’s mega-investment deal with China, purported to be worth £176billion.
Mrs Merkel, along with French President Emmanuel Macron, is believed to have been the main driving force behind the agreement.
Dominic Lawson, in The Sunday Times, noted that this poured light on Berlin’s “business first” policy, “despite calls from Biden’s people to hold off (not just because of what was happening in Xinjiang but also in Hong Kong)”.
Sean King, senior vice-president of Park Strategies in New York, told Express.co.uk that such deals should be avoided at all costs.
He said: “We (liberal democracies) need to start trading more with friends and allies that share our values and don’t intimidate their neighbours.”
And while Mr Laschet appears to deviate from Mr Biden in politics, Agatha Cantrill, speaking on Bloomberg News last week, noted: “Just by becoming the CDU leader doesn’t necessarily mean he will be the Chancellor candidate in September.”
Although, she added: “It does show how the party is planning to go which is in the vein of continuing Merkel’s legacy by picking one of her strong loyalists as their new leader.”
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