But while the British are tried-and-true military allies and see themselves as a global player, they are not Europe’s leader. They don’t even share the euro currency, whose ups and downs can profoundly affect the US economy.
Germany, however, is Europe’s largest economy – rebounding strongly from recession – and the continent’s most populous country (after Russia). It’s an export powerhouse, second only to China. It embodies the merging of “new and old” Europe through its own reunification more than 20 years ago.
And so today, Obama acknowledged that weight by welcoming Chancellor Merkel with trumpets blaring in a state visit, the first for any European leader during his term. Tonight he will present her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
But the ceremonies hint more at Germany’s potential as a joint leader with America than the reality. The warm welcome masked tensions between the two.