It's no secret that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump have a tense history. The two leaders have clashed publicly — with Trump harshly criticizing Merkel's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis — and they have divergent views on the roles their nations should play on the world stage.
However, when the two leaders meet on Friday, White House officials say they will work to put aside differences to work to better strengthen both transatlantic relations and their own.
"If any European leader can be assumed to have profound insights into (Putin's) thinking and psychology, but at the same time have a very hard-nosed attitude toward a strategic goal, then it would be Merkel," Constanze Stelzenmüller, Robert Bosch senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told NBC News.
White House officials have downplayed Trump's campaign trail criticism of Merkel, opting instead for an optimistic preview of the meetings to come.
The president was "impressed by" Merkel's leadership, an administration official told reporters during a background briefing held ahead of the leaders' meeting. The officials said they looked forward to cooperating on issues of counter terrorism and trade and expect President Trump to express his appreciation for Germany's "deep friendship" with the United States when he meets with Merkel.