Ingmar Björn Nolting for TIME
September 28, 2022 6:00 AM EDT

“What makes me optimistic in these difficult times is knowing the strength of our transatlantic union, our alliances, our liberal democracies.” That’s what Annalena Baerbock said in a public conversation we had in Munich just months after becoming Germany’s Foreign Minister and one week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Without question, the transatlantic relationship and the values on which it’s built are being put through the crucible. An accelerating climate crisis. Backsliding democracies. A more coercive China. And of course, President Vladimir Putin’s brutal war. Yet rather than let these challenges divide us, Annalena has made them a reason to bring the U.S. and Germany—and all our transatlantic allies—closer together. She’s never lost faith in the inherent strength of our democracies, rooted in our freedoms, our respect for human rights, and our unique capacity to keep making ourselves better. And she has a knack for ­rallying more partners around this vision and translating it into the practical. When I think about what makes me optimistic in these times, it’s having a partner who so seamlessly blends principle and pragmatism.

Blinken is the U.S. Secretary of State

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