Biden-Merkel meeting: Afghanistan, cybersecurity, Nord Stream

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is expected to discuss a series of pressing issues with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next week, during what could be his last trip to Washington after nearly 16 years as the head of the world’s largest economy ‘Europe.

The two leaders are expected to share their concerns over the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the constant pace of cyber attacks, the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, long-standing trade issues and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

“From a German point of view, it will be a working visit,” said a senior German government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the Chancellor’s trip to Washington.

“Obviously, over the past few years, we have had several hiccups in bilateral relations. The focus was entirely on the issues on which we did not agree,” the official said, adding that sometimes “the allies were seen as enemies”.

Throughout his administration, former President Donald Trump has frequently disguised NATO allies and partners. He threatened to cut US military support for NATO if the allies did not increase spending. In 2019, Trump singled out Merkel for failing to meet the 2% of GDP spending target set at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales.

Germany, at the time, was just one of 19 NATO members that failed to meet the spending target of 2% of GDP.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump arrive for a group photo at a G7 summit May 26, 2017 in Taormina, Italy.

Getty Images

“There are always problems in relationships, this is completely normal because sometimes we have different points of view, perspectives and interests and we are different in size, power and vulnerabilities etc.” , explained the manager.

“But what’s important and maybe not entirely been seen this way in recent years is how you actually deal with issues,” the official said.

Merkel’s July 15 visit to the White House, the third time a foreign leader has met Biden in Washington since becoming president, comes months before Germany’s national elections. Merkel, the first woman to lead Germany, has already announced her intention to step down after the September elections.

withdrawal from afghanistan

The two leaders, who have met several times during their political careers, will most likely discuss their shared concerns about the future of Afghanistan as US coalition and NATO forces leave the country.

“We are all following what is happening,” said the senior German government official, referring to the astonishing advances on the Taliban battlefield since foreign troops began the withdrawal process.

“Whatever happens at Kabul airport, it will be extremely important,” the official said, adding that Germany is the second largest donor to Afghanistan behind the United States.

“We are heavily invested in Afghanistan and have been for some time,” the official said.

In April, Biden ordered the total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan before September 11, ending America’s longest war. On Thursday, Biden gave an updated schedule and said the US military mission in Afghanistan would end by August 31.

“We did not go to Afghanistan to build a nation,” Biden said Thursday in remarks at the White House. “It is up to the Afghans to make the decisions concerning the future of their country,” he added.

Soldiers from A Co., 101st Division Special Troop Battalion prepare to board a Chinook for an air assault mission November 1, 2005 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

us army photo

Cyber ​​security

Biden and Merkel are also expected to discuss an alarming number of cyber attacks that have shown the potential to reach multiple sectors and international borders.

Latest ransomware attack, leaked last week by a Florida-based company software provider Kaseya, has spread to six European countries and penetrated the networks of thousands of people in the United States.

Ransomware attacks involve malware that encrypts files on a device or network, rendering the system unusable. The criminals behind these types of cyber attacks usually demand a ransom in exchange for disclosing data.

Russian-speaking hacking group REvil took responsibility for the cyberattack on Kaseya. The full scope of the ransomware attack is not yet known.

“It’s a huge problem,” the official told CNBC when asked if cybersecurity would be a topic Merkel would discuss with her US counterpart.

“Obviously this is being dealt with on other channels as you can imagine, but it’s a huge problem for all of us and we had better find ways not only to deal with it but also to raise this. problem with the countries where the attacks are happening or where we think they are coming from, ”the official said.

In May, a hacking group known as DarkSide with suspected links to Russian criminals launched a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, forcing the US company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline. This has resulted in an interruption of nearly half of the east coast’s fuel supply and caused gasoline shortages in the southeast and airline disruptions.

Colonial Pipeline paid the cybercriminals $ 5 million in ransom in order to restart operations. A few weeks after the attack, US law enforcement was able to recover $ 2.3 million in bitcoins from the hacker group.

Less than a month after the cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, Brazilian company JBS, the world’s largest meat packer, announced that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack. The breach has disrupted meat production in North America and Australia, raising concerns about rising meat prices.

The company eventually paid a $ 11 million ransom to another Russian-based cybercrime group, but not before briefly shutting down all of its operations in the United States.

Nord Stream 2

Biden will likely raise concerns about the completion of a large undersea pipeline that will pump Russian gas directly to Germany.

The $ 11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal comes as the Biden administration struggles to mend the strained ties between Berlin and Washington after Trump’s tenure.

In May, the United States lifted the sanctions against the Swiss company Nord Stream 2 AG, which manages the gas pipeline project, and its German managing director. The waiver gives Berlin and Washington three more months to reach a deal on Nord Stream 2.

If completed, Nord Stream 2 will span 764 miles, making it one of the longest offshore gas pipelines in the world. Last month, the Kremlin said that there were only 62 miles of pipeline left to build.

“So there are different concerns in Eastern Europe and the United States, mainly related to the fact that Russia in the past had militarized energy exports,” the senior German government official said.

“We saw it with regard to Georgia and we saw it in the early 2010s when half of South Eastern Europe froze,” the official said, adding that Berlin was aware of the Russian history of using energy to advance a political agenda.

“Given the responses in Eastern Europe, we need to do something and I think we can look at the possibilities that will alleviate concerns about the perceived challenges to European energy security.”

When asked for a timeline for fixing the Nord Stream 2 issue, the manager declined to provide further details.

“We’re still talking and we’re serious about it,” the official said.

About Jermaine Chase

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