Angela Merkel and President Obama put on a thin display of unity against an assertive Russia during the chancellor’s “awkward” visit to the White House on Friday, much delayed on account of revelations that Obama’s NSA had bugged her communications.

The Guardian reports:

After a long, cold winter, a new relationship was supposed to be blossoming.

But as soon as the event began, it was evident that Merkel, who rarely speaks English in public, was placed at a considerable disadvantage by White House headphones provided to reporters – and the world leaders – for simultaneous translation.

Obama’s remarks were clear. But when Merkel spoke, she was barely audible over a suspicious, crackling noise. Bemused reporters tapped their headsets, wondering aloud if they were listening to something they shouldn’t.

Merkel had refused to come to Washington for months, saying she would not show up until trust was restored between the two governments in a mutual “no-spy agreement.” She also wanted to know what was in her NSA file. On both counts, she was not satisfied.

Obama pinned blame for the tension between the leaders on NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, taking none for himself, the commander in chief of the U.S. surveillance regime. “It has pained me to see the degree to which the Snowden disclosures have created strains in the relationship,” he said. Looking briefly at Merkel, he added: “She should not doubt, and the German people should not doubt, how seriously we take these issues.”

Read more here and hear the leaders’ remarks below.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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