Germany: Armin Laschet wins vote to lead the CDU party
President Biden over the weekend spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the first time since his inauguration. Following the talk, Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter that he looked forward to “deepening the longstanding alliance” between the UK and the US as they drove a “green and sustainable recovery from Covid-19”. Many had speculated that the UK would struggle to ally with the Biden administration given the President’s opposition to Brexit.
It was initially believed Mr Biden would look to Europe, to France and Germany, as a way to bring the US closer to the EU – something which former President Donald Trump failed to achieve in his four years at the White House.
Yet, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite congratulating Mr Biden on his presidency, told reporters after the inauguration: “Don’t think that from tomorrow there will only be harmony between us.”
Ms Merkel last week was replaced as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) by centrist Armin Laschet.
Mr Laschet has spoken favourably of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin which, many note, might run at odds with President Biden and his team’s goal of curbing Russian global influence.
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Mr Biden will be “ready to play ugly” when talking about addressing Russia, China and Iran, according to his former advisor
Dominic Lawson, writing in The Sunday Times, noted that Mr Laschet will “be a much less congenial interlocutor, from Washington’s point of view”.
When the UK Government called for sanctions against Russia following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury by two of Mr Putin’s “hitmen”, Mr Laschet tweeted: “If you force almost all NATO countries to show solidarity, shouldn’t you have reliable evidence.
Then President Donald Trump and Ms Merkel did not share this view.
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Now, however, with Mr Laschet in the running to become Germany’s next Chancellor – elections are later this year – Mr Biden, political experts have said, may look to the UK rather than the EU for alliance.
In 2019, reflecting on the policy of détente during the Cold War – the period which marked an easing of tensions between Western powers and the Soviet Union – Mr Laschet said: “Back then, in a tense situation with a totalitarian communist system, threads of conversation were established.
“Then it must be possible for us today too.
“We need Russia for many questions in the world.”
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He continued: “There are many conflicts where we have to move forward without giving up our position under international law, for example on Crimea.
“You can speak plainly and still cooperate in other fields and keep talking.”
His cosying up to Russia has led many within Germany to describe him as a Russlandversteher: A derogatory term for people who take a soft and sympathetic stance on Mr Putin’s Russia, according to Politico.
The EU faces a similar battle to attract good relations with the US following its controversial investment deal signed with China at the end of last year.
While President Biden has promised to curb China’s influence on the world stage, the EU – spearheaded by European Commission and Council presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, and joined by Mrs Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron – late last year agreed to a deal with Beijing worth £176billion.
Sean King, senior vice-president of Park Strategies in New York, last year told Express.co.uk that deals like this 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.”
The UK, meanwhile, has taken a similar line to the US, earlier this month imposing strict sanctions on China for its “horrific” treatment of the Uighur muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.
Mr Biden’s team has since reportedly reached out to Mr Johnson in a bid to join forces and stop Beijing from “controlling” new technology like Huawei and 5G.
Things look less positive in Europe, as Mr Laschet is considered to have a soft line on China, with protecting German export industries one of his biggest concerns in recent years.
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