Host TV
Now playing
00:46
Obama: Merkel on the 'right side of history'
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18:  German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the German federal chancellory on July 18, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Yingluck, Thailand's first female prime minister, is on her first state visit outside of Asia since she took office in August of last year.  (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Adam Berry/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18: German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the German federal chancellory on July 18, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Yingluck, Thailand's first female prime minister, is on her first state visit outside of Asia since she took office in August of last year. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:15
Who is Angela Merkel?
Twitter/Steffen Seibert/German Federal Press Office
Now playing
01:41
Trump defends G7 photo: It was friendly
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 12: German Chancellor and head of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel during statements following all-night preliminary coalition talks on January 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. The leaders signalled the talks have ended in success. The parties will likely soon beging the arduous process of coalition negotiations.  (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
Steffi Loos/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 12: German Chancellor and head of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel during statements following all-night preliminary coalition talks on January 12, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. The leaders signalled the talks have ended in success. The parties will likely soon beging the arduous process of coalition negotiations. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:02
Germany's SPD votes to join Merkel coalition
German Chancellor  Angela Merkel speaks to the media the day after the CDU won 32.9% of the vote and a first place finish in yesterday's German federal elections on September 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media the day after the CDU won 32.9% of the vote and a first place finish in yesterday's German federal elections on September 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany.
Now playing
01:27
Merkel faces complex coalition building
German Chancellor and Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel (C) reacts to initial results that give the party 32,9% of the vote, giving it a first place finish, in German federal elections on September 24, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Chancellor Merkel is seeking a fourth term and coming weeks will likely be dominated by negotiations between parties over the next coalition government.
Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
German Chancellor and Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel (C) reacts to initial results that give the party 32,9% of the vote, giving it a first place finish, in German federal elections on September 24, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Chancellor Merkel is seeking a fourth term and coming weeks will likely be dominated by negotiations between parties over the next coalition government.
Now playing
01:59
Merkel's party receives lowest support in years
merkel go it alone sot_00000000.jpg
Reuters
merkel go it alone sot_00000000.jpg
Now playing
00:45
Merkel: We have to fight for our own future
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and US President Donald Trump attend a panel discussion titled "Launch Event Women's Entrepreneur Finance Initiative" during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017.
Leaders of the world's top economies gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Michael Kappeler        (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and US President Donald Trump attend a panel discussion titled "Launch Event Women's Entrepreneur Finance Initiative" during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017. Leaders of the world's top economies gather from July 7 to 8, 2017 in Germany for likely the stormiest G20 summit in years, with disagreements ranging from wars to climate change and global trade. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Michael Kappeler (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:47
G20 closes with rebuke to Trump
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18:  German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the German federal chancellory on July 18, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Yingluck, Thailand's first female prime minister, is on her first state visit outside of Asia since she took office in August of last year.  (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Adam Berry/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 18: German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a news conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the German federal chancellory on July 18, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Yingluck, Thailand's first female prime minister, is on her first state visit outside of Asia since she took office in August of last year. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:43
Angela Merkel: Time is of the essence
Angela Merkel building walls NATO Berlin wall_00000000.jpg
Angela Merkel building walls NATO Berlin wall_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:08
Merkel: Building walls doesn't equal success
New French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and  German Chancellor Angela Merkel wave to journalists at the chancellery  in Berlin Monday, May 15, 2017, during the first foreign trip of Macron after his inauguration the day before.  (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP
New French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wave to journalists at the chancellery in Berlin Monday, May 15, 2017, during the first foreign trip of Macron after his inauguration the day before. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Now playing
02:26
Macron meets Merkel on first day in office
Adam Berry/Getty Images
Now playing
02:08
Angela Merkel: Germany's beloved 'Mom'
Angela Merkel press ocnference on December 23, 2016
Reuters
Angela Merkel press ocnference on December 23, 2016
Now playing
01:44
Former ambassador: Merkel can handle Trump
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint press conference with the Argentinian President at the Chancellery in Berlin on July 5, 2016.  / AFP / Adam BERRY        (Photo credit should read ADAM BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
ADAM BERRY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint press conference with the Argentinian President at the Chancellery in Berlin on July 5, 2016. / AFP / Adam BERRY (Photo credit should read ADAM BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:38
Merkel calls for full veil ban
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos
AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos
Now playing
01:00
Angela Merkel is TIME's Person of the Year
Getty Images
Now playing
02:50
Why was Angela Merkel selected over Donald Trump?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she addresses a press conference in Berlin on August 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALLJOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she addresses a press conference in Berlin on August 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALLJOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:54
Merkel calls on EU countries to do more for migrants

Story highlights

President Barack Obama is in Germany on Sunday

He will lend support to German Chancellor Angela Merkel

(CNN) —  

In a cold world, President Barack Obama has found some warmth in Germany.

For the famously reserved commander in chief, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has become his closest global partner, an alliance-turned-friendship forged by mutual political interests and parallel personalities.

Obama arrived in Hanover, Germany, on Sunday to lend Merkel his backing as she faces political blowback over her stance on refugees fleeing war in Syria, a position Obama praised as a matter of moral fortitude.

“She’s on the right side of history on this,” Obama said alongside his German counterpart Sunday, praising Merkel for confronting some “very tough politics” in opening her country’s borders to nearly a million migrants last year.

“She is giving voice, I think, to the kinds of principles that bring people together rather than divide them, and I’m very proud of her for that, and I’m proud of the German people for that,” Obama said.

At the same time, Obama is hoping his strongest European friend can help sway skeptical fellow leaders to scale up their efforts to counter ISIS, particularly in implementing stronger counterterror programs to track suspected extremists. He also is looking for her support in hammering out a U.S.-European Union trade pact.

If Obama is successful in his European pursuits this week, it’s because the two leaders have formed something rare for Obama: a genuine international friendship that both have leveraged to their own advantage. That rapport, analysts say, has led Germany to assume the pre-eminent role in U.S.-Europe ties previously held by France or the United Kingdom.

“You feel increasingly the center of the trans-Atlantic relationship rests in many ways on the Berlin-Washington axis a little bit more than it has in the past. And I think Obama and Merkel are responsible for that because of that tight relationship,” said Julianne Smith, the director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program at the Center for a New American Security, and a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Officials say similarities in each leader’s personality and disposition have led to a bond that’s withstood a litany of challenges during their tenures. Early in Obama’s administration, Merkel reportedly expressed doubts about the young president.

“She dislikes the atmospherics surrounding the Obama phenomenon. … It’s contrary to her whole idea of politics and how to conduct oneself in general,” then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was told in an email from her confidant Sidney Blumenthal. He was citing information from a former U.S. ambassador in Germany.

Later, when it was revealed that the American National Security Agency was monitoring Merkel’s cell phone, the furious response reflected Germans’ worst fears of overzealous American surveillance. The situation wasn’t resolved immediately; at one point, Merkel ejected the CIA station chief in Berlin after it was alleged the spy agency was recruiting German officials.

Finally, Obama’s chief of staff was dispatched to the German capital to resolve the tensions, a rare overseas mediation that was effective in cooling tempers.

So too have Obama and Merkel been sharply at odds over austerity versus growth models in reviving the global economy, a disagreement that persists even though they have so far staved off a global depression.

But both are cerebral realists, each relatively cold-eyed about the challenges their countries face, and their friendship emerged from those disagreements intact.

“For me, the future with the President is much more important than the past right now,” Merkel declared Sunday through an interpreter.

During last year’s Group of Seven talks in Bavaria, it was apparent both had put aside any lingering resentments when Obama greeted Merkel with a hug and kisses on the cheek. The pair spent a sunny afternoon meandering through an Alpine village, sampling sausages and beer.

The chumminess was again on full display ahead of Obama’s arrival in Hanover, where he’ll sit for talks with Merkel on Sunday. A headline atop Obama’s interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper blared “Was ich an Merkel so mag!” – “What I Really Like about Merkel!”

Obama was grinning widely when he met Merkel, embracing the German chancellor and kissing her on the cheek. Though she returned his hug, Merkel returned quickly to her familiar German sobriety, walking briskly along the grand courtyard of the Schloss Herrenhausen to survey troops.

Later, during their joint news conference, Obama was determined to spotlight Merkel’s jocularity, even if it’s her sober outlook he values in global affairs.

“This is as important a relationship as I’ve had during the course of my presidency. Chancellor Merkel has been consistent; she has been steady; she is trustworthy. She has a really good sense of humor that she doesn’t show all the time at press conferences,” Obama said. “That’s why she’s been such a long-lasting leader, because she watches what she says.”

Merkel is a chemist by training, distinguishing her from the parade of career politicians whom Obama regularly faces in Europe and elsewhere. Obama’s aides say the President appreciates Merkel’s scientific approach to problems like Europe’s persistent economic woes, Russia’s continued provocations in Ukraine and counterterror efforts that haven’t been popular at home.

It’s that willingness to brave political fallout that’s endeared Merkel to Obama over the long course of their parallel administrations. In Germany this week, Obama hopes to boost Merkel after her decision to open Germany for an inflow of r