US President Joe Biden is expecting Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a meeting in the White House today. The trip to Washington comes as a surprise because on Thursday Steinmeier was still in Cape Verde, where he had just completed a two-day state visit.
From there he actually wanted to fly on to Portugal to take part in a meeting of non-executive presidents of the European Union in Porto. But now an invitation from the US President got in the way. It is the first meeting between the two as heads of state and takes place in the evening German time.
The White House named German-American Friendship Day as the official reason for the visit. In the USA, German American Day is celebrated on October 6th. It commemorates the arrival of the first German settlers in Philadelphia in 1683. In the US President's schedule for today there was a bit of a casual mention of Steinmeier briefly "stopping by" the White House in the afternoon.
Topics of the meeting
In a brief statement, the White House previously said it wanted to "reaffirm the close relationship between the United States and Germany." It is also about “close coordination as a NATO alliance partner on a number of important issues”. As examples, the White House cited the defense of democratic values and the “shared commitment to help Ukraine defend against Russian invasion.”
Further support for Ukraine is likely to be the most important topic of the meeting. Germany and the USA want to help the attacked country for as long as necessary. But Biden has a problem: The interim budget passed by the US Congress over the weekend does not provide for any further aid for Ukraine. This does not mean that the USA will stop supporting Ukraine immediately. But the money approved so far is running out and new funds are needed. And the US president is trying to allay concerns among NATO allies and partners that US military aid to Kiev could dry up.
Not yet in Washington as Federal President
Steinmeier had been to the USA several times as Federal President, but had always avoided Washington during the term of US President Donald Trump. The relationship between the two politicians has been considered tense since Steinmeier, while still Foreign Minister in the US election campaign, called Trump a "hate preacher" in August 2016. Trump's "America First" policy, which often ran counter to a rules-based international order, was vehemently rejected by Steinmeier.
Steinmeier wanted to travel to Washington that night from Cape Verde with his closest colleagues. In addition, a smaller aircraft from the Bundeswehr's aviation unit came to the island republic. The larger plane that Steinmeier flew there with brought the rest of the delegation back to Germany.