Prime Minister Mark Rutte will visit the White House in Washington for the second time on Thursday. Last summer the prime minister made a decisive impression during the conversation with US president Donald Trump. What will the two discuss this time? And what about the D-Day flag that is handed over?
What will Rutte do in the US?
Together with Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care and Sport, Rutte is going to the US for an economic mission. They travel Thursday to the city of Boston where Bruins attends seminars with companies in the health, robotics, artificial intelligence and climate resilience sectors.
The prime minister will dine in Boston with the business delegation. A number of agreements will be signed between Dutch and American companies during the formal trade dinner.
Then there is time for relaxation. Rutte will be visiting the Museum of Fine Arts, where the Center for Netherlandish Art will be opened in 2020.
Prior to the visit to Boston, Rutte will first visit the White House with Foreign Minister Stef Blok. They will meet President Trump for the second time.
Minister Bruno Bruins for Medical Care and Sport. (Photo: Pro Shots)
What is being discussed with Trump?
Dutch navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz and Dutch ground troops in Northern Syria: two major topics, which Rutte described last Friday as "the hype of the day", are not on the agenda, according to the prime minister, but will no doubt be discussed.
Van Trump is known to demand a greater contribution from NATO allies in Syria and, more recently, in the conflict with Iran, where tensions in the Gulf increased after the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The Netherlands has received two requests from the Americans to offer support. First of all, the Americans want Dutch ground troops in northern Syria. Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops at the end of last year. Allies should monitor fragile stability in the region. Ground forces does not see the government happening anyway. No decision has yet been made on what the Netherlands can offer.
The same applies to the American request to send a Dutch frigate to the Strait of Hormuz. The government has not yet taken a position on this either. Tensions off the coast of Iran have increased in recent months after Trump stepped out of the atomic agreement with Iran with the US.
Rutte then called Trump's step "rude". "America also does things on its own on other points, without taking into account allies. And that's not good," he added.
Last Friday Rutte had a milder tone. He sees Iran as the cause of the tensions in the important strait. According to the government, a possible contribution from the Netherlands would also be in the interest of Dutch ships sailing in the region. In June, two Japanese oil tankers attacked the Gulf of Oman. The Americans say they have video evidence that Iran is behind it, but experts are not convinced.
The government is expected to take a decision after the summer.
How was it last time at the White House?
Last summer, Rutte visited the American president for the first time. The prime minister made a fresh and powerful impression there. Trump and Rutte talked about international trade, one of the most difficult issues on the agenda.
For example, Trump, referring to the disagreement between the US and the EU over trade and import duties, said the two blocs would work out. "And even if we can't figure it out, that's positive," said the president.
Rutte interrupted Trump and immediately contradicted this: "No, that is not positive. We have to get out." The moment hit the international press.
43Trump and Rutte address the press during a meeting
Why is the flag that is handed over so special?
Rutte is also accompanied to the White House by the Rotterdam businessman and art collector Bert Kreuk. He owns the American flag that flew on LCC 60, the first landing vehicle to land on D-Day in Normandy in 1944.
Kreuk will hand over the historic 'Stars and Stripes' to the supreme commander of the US armed forces - president Trump - during a special ceremony. The flag will then be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington.
By the way, it is possible that Trump will soon also visit the Netherlands. King Willem-Alexander has invited him to commemorate the Battle of the Scheldt in Terneuzen, which will take place on 31 August. The White House has not yet announced whether the President will accept that invitation.