German president to meet CIA chief during surprise trip to Washington

BERLIN (Reuters) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will meet Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns on Friday during his surprise trip to Washington to hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, his spokesperson said.

The spokesperson gave no details on the planned meeting.

Steinmeier is also due to meet Biden on Friday to commemorate German-American Day – an apparently last-minute decision that led the German president to cancel his scheduled attendance at a European Union event in Portugal.

The first meeting between Steinmeier and Biden in their current capacity as heads of state – although the presidency in Germany is a largely ceremonial role – comes amid rising worries about the steadfastness of Western support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

Biden, a Democrat, is facing growing pushback from Congressional Republicans to his efforts to keep backing Ukraine as the U.S. presidential election campaign picks up. The United States is by far the biggest provider of military help to Kyiv.

Biden’s request for $24 billion in additional funding for Kyiv was left out of a stopgap funding bill the Congress passed on Saturday.

Meanwhile in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is resisting growing calls to supply Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles, which many say is reminiscent of the debate over whether or not to send tanks to Ukraine.

The White House said Biden and Steinmeier would reaffirm their ties, “including our close coordination as NATO Allies on a range of important issues such as defending democratic values and our shared commitment to support Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s invasion”.

Steinmeier became Germany’s president in 2017 after serving as foreign minister under former Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Sarah Marsh, Editing by Rachel More and Gareth Jones)