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Trump's new EU film: Another "strong female German leader"

  Ursula von der Leyen "title =" Ursula von der Leyen

On Tuesday, Ursula von der Leyen became the European Commission's next president, who narrowly won elections in the European Parliament. | Virginia Mayo / AP Photo

Foreign Policy

Ursula von der Leyen wins plaudits from US officials, but also some of her fans worry that her ascent will further extinguish the tough US-EU relationship.

Ursula von der Leyen has called Donald Trump's discussions about NATO "immature" questioned why he wants to be a "best friend" with Russia's Vladimir Putin and even the president suggested uncomfortable with strong female leaders.

Now she will be his main counterpart in the European Union.

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On Tuesday, von der Leyen became the European Commission's next president, who narrowly won elections in the European Parliament. The new role of von der Leyen, who has been Germany's Defense Minister since 2013, will lead her to the forefront of negotiations with the United States on trade, technology and other important issues. But while von der Leyen has many admirers among US and European National Security Officers, some of her fans also worry that her ascent to the Commission Presidency will further extinguish the tough US-EU relationship during Trump.

"That job would be tough for someone, especially since Trump has called the EU an" enemy, "says Julie Smith, a former Obama official who follows the transatlantic relationship." But putting a strong female German leader in Commissioner likely to make it more difficult for the EU to strengthen ties with the Trump administration. "

Von der Leyn's rise to the EU Commission Presidency was a surprise, but she was not one of the original leading candidates that was brought up by major political blocs, but emerged as a consensus choice when European leaders were in loggerheads after hours of fruitless meetings.

When von der Leyen then visits Washington, she may have to be careful, considering that she has many traits that can give Trump pause. [19659014] Von der Leyen, often called VDL, is close to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has long had a strained relationship with Trump. He is asked Merkel for everything from Germany's commercial practice until he accepted about 1 million refugees.

Von der Leyen has suggested that Trump's concern about Merkel may be because he does not usually handle strong female leaders.

"A woman like Angela Merkel, a globally respected head of government with a long experience, was probably not in her world view so far," von der Leyen Spiegel news outlet.

Trump's biggest frustrations with Merkel were often centered on a subject area for von der Leyen: German defense costs. Trump has repeatedly criticized Germany for not spending at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense promised by NATO countries.

The question can cut both ways for von der Leyen.

During his short time as German Defense Minister, Berlin achieved its defense costs in absolute terms. But von der Ley's demands for more expenses finally struck roads, among among German legislators. The country said last year that it would not meet its original goal of beating the 2 percent threshold by 2024.

Von der Leyen has many fans in the defense facility on both sides of the Atlantic, some of whom say she was always frank about what would be achieved. Several noted that von der Leyen has lived in the United States before and is fluent in English – one of several languages ​​she speaks – which has helped her navigate in Washington.

"She is pragmatic, she is realistic, she is a hard worker and she is hard," said Rachel Ellehuus, who served as a top helper to the former Trump administration defense minister James Mattis. "She never became engaged and subcontracted."

A NATO official who sang similarly famous also played concern about von der Ley's ability to handle Trump and said her "panache" would win him.

"Trump does as women with panache," said the official on condition of anonymity. "His own household is proof of that."

Despite Trump's stony conditions with so many European leaders, the president went relatively well with Jean-Claude Juncker, whom he called a brutal killer "And a" great businessman. "

Juncker, who comes from Luxembourg and is about as internationalist as they came, somehow managed to trump Trump and convinced him last year to sign movements that would escalate a growing trade war between the US and the EU. At one time he told Trump: "If you want be stupid, I can also be stupid. "

Von der Leyen, a 60-year-old mother of seven, will be the first Commissioner of the European Commission. Inquired, an assistant to Von der Leyen referred to a package that she circulates, where She says: "We will work to strengthen a balanced and mutually beneficial trade partnership with the United States."

Von der Leyen is a strong believer in multilateralism and the European project, which alone could shut down Trump, who is skeptical of international alliances and often emphasizes the overall importance of national sovereignty.

Trump has referred to the EU as an "enemy" because he claims it is undermining the United States on trade. Last year, Trump seemed to link NATO members' defense spending with EU trade practices – issues that are traditionally separate. Asked about Trump's comments, von der Leyen was diplomatically blunt.

"I think this is an immature discussion," she told Bloomberg . "Therefore, I think we should turn the discussion into a mature discussion that discusses both topics. They are not related to each other."

Von der Leyen defender notes that the next leading EU leader has some nuanced positions that can adapt to her with Trump in key areas.

For example, although she is open to more internal European defense cooperation, she has pushed the French call for an "EU army", a concept of Trump loathes. She has also said greater European defense cooperation should not compete with NATO – a node to the ongoing US role in supporting the European defense.

"We want to remain transatlantic, but we also want to become more European," she says.

Von der Leyen has also made tough notes on China, which Trump would appreciate, but also on Russia, a loaded subject for Trump.

Soon after Trump was elected president in November 2016, von der Leyen drew attention to his friendly takeovers o oward Russia.

"Donald Trump must say clearly on which side he is," she said, according to media reports. "If he is on the side of the law, peace and democracy, or if he doesn't care about all that and instead he is looking for a best friend."

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