After a meeting with US President Joe Biden, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed optimism that the US would provide further military aid to Ukraine.

At the meeting, Biden assured him that the USA could be “relied on,” Steinmeier said on Friday afternoon in Washington after his visit to the White House. It was important to both of them to send a “signal” during the conversation. “We will continue to support Ukraine in its fight for its land, its freedom and its democracy.” The Federal President was nevertheless concerned about the current developments in the US Congress.

Surprising trip to Washington

The trip to Washington came as a surprise. 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 then the invitation from the US President intervened. In the US President’s schedule for Friday there was only a somewhat casual mention of the fact that Steinmeier would briefly “stop by” the White House in the afternoon – a rather unusual formulation.

US interim budget without funds for Ukraine aid

Biden currently has great cause for concern: no further aid for Ukraine is included in an interim budget passed by Congress over the weekend. 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.

US President Biden is trying to allay concerns among NATO allies and partners that US military aid to Kiev could dry up. In addition, the chairman of the US House of Representatives was ousted in a historic vote – and since then there has been largely deadlock in the important parliamentary chamber.

Steinmeier said he was among the many in Germany who had watched the latest developments in Congress with concern. There was tension in political Washington. But Biden is sure that a solution will be found with a view to continued support for Ukraine, which is attacked by Russia, said Steinmeier.

The US President did not have any expectations of Germany, but “on the contrary” expressed his satisfaction with what Germany had achieved in the past few months. “The people in Ukraine know: What Germany promises will be kept. You can rely on Germany.”

Official reason for the visit

In a lengthy statement from the White House after the meeting, Ukraine was only briefly mentioned. It said the alliance with Germany was also crucial to “ongoing efforts” to support the people of Ukraine.

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. Steinmeier emphasized: “The German-American friendship is deep and strong.”

Steinmeier also met the head of the US foreign secret service CIA, William Burns, in Washington. However, he did not provide any information about the content of the conversation and only said that they discussed “current conflicts” and “geopolitical changes”. After the meeting with Biden, the Federal President also made it clear that the liberal democracies are currently under pressure – they have to prove themselves again. Democracy can only succeed if political divides are not made insurmountable and there is a constant struggle to balance interests.

Tense relationship with Trump

Steinmeier had been to the USA several times as Federal President, but had always avoided Washington during Donald Trump’s term as US President. 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 began the journey to Washington with his closest circle of colleagues from Cape Verde. 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.