U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Washington on March 14, with the future of NATO and the conflict in Ukraine among the key topics.
White House officials said Trump will also seek Merkel's views on Russian President Vladimir Putin during their first face-to-face meeting at the White House.
Merkel had a strong relationship with Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, who called the German chancellor his "closest international partner."
Trump, on the other hand, once accused Merkel of "ruining Germany" by allowing in a large number of refugees, assailed Germany on trade issues, and called Democratic rival Hillary Clinton "America's Angela Merkel."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not address those issues, saying only there was "a lot of excitement on both sides of the ocean for this trip.”
White House officials said Trump would press Germany on the need for NATO members to increase their defense spending -- something Germany has generally resisted.
They are also expected to discuss a common strategy on Ukraine.
The United States and other Western powers have imposed economic sanctions on Russia after its illegal annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Trump has expressed desires for better relations with Putin, something that has caused U.S. allies to question his commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty, along with his support for NATO.
White House officials said the U.S. leader wanted to hear Merkel's views on her interactions with Putin.
For her part, Merkel said on March 11 that she was coming to Washington not only as the German chancellor but as a representative of the European Union.
"I will, of course, point out that for us, our country and our membership in the European Union are two sides of the same coin," Merkel said in Brussels before her departure.
A Merkel spokeswoman said the meeting would be an opportunity for "an exchange of bilateral and international topics, and transatlantic ties, as we have always stressed, are very important."
Juergen Hardt, the German government's coordinator for transatlantic relations, told the dpa news agency that the building of trust would be Merkel’s main goal for the visit.
"Most important is that she succeeds in making clear that differences of opinion can be spoken on the basis of partnership, but not out of confrontation," he said.