Polarizing divisions will color President Barack Obama’s discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when the supposedly staunch allies meet at the White House on Monday for talks expected to primarily address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The meeting comes after a year of lingering tensions in a relationship that, at least publicly, was tested by reports of CIA spying and National Security Agency surveillance of the phone calls of Merkel and other European leaders.
The chancellor was expected to arrive in Washington after a furious round of shuttle diplomacy that saw her travel to Kiev on Thursday and to Moscow on Friday in an urgent bid to craft a diplomatic solution to the escalating conflict between government troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine – a crisis complicated last week when the White House suddenly reversed its long-held position and said it was considering arming the Ukrainians.
The possibility of a potential new strategy upended what had been a unified approach among the U.S. and its NATO allies of pursuing economic sanctions against interests in Moscow, as Merkel took point in applying diplomatic pressure to Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom she reportedly spoke some 40 times in the last year.
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