Biden confident Germany’s Olaf Scholz shares the United States’ concern over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. When the two leaders met at the White House on Monday, they stressed their ploy in defusing Russian aggression against Ukraine.
- On Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met with US President Joe Biden for the first time at the White House.
- The pair addressed Ukraine as part of a flurry of diplomacy geared at averting a Russian invasion. Germany is Kyiv’s second-largest non-military donor behind the US.
- According to officials, banning Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system remains an option. An analyst contends that Germany must demonstrate greater “creativity” in its help to Ukraine.
Biden, Germany’s Scholz coordinate response to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine
When US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met at the White House on Monday, they reaffirmed their commitment to opposing any Russian aggression in Ukraine, amidst US concerns that a Russian invasion could follow in days or weeks.
Scholz, who has endured criticism at home and abroad for his lackluster leadership during the crisis, took a more assertive tone before his departure, telling German television ARD that he was open to sending additional troops to Lithuania to protect NATO’s eastern flank.
The German Chancellor is scheduled to visit both Ukraine and Russia next week, following discussions this week with the European Council president and the presidents of the Baltic states in a whirlwind of diplomacy aimed at averting a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Scholz noted that Western efforts to address the problem diplomatically – including through Normandy format discussions with France, Ukraine, and Russia – were beginning to bear fruit.
“It’s about averting a European war,” Scholz told ARD, adding that his first meeting with Biden as Chancellor would entail “hard, real political work.” In October, the two men met in Rome at a Group of 20 leaders’ summit while Scholz was still working as finance minister.
The Biden-Scholz relationship might prove pivotal when French President Emmanuel Macron has yet to declare his intention to run in a three-month-time election and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is embroiled in a domestic scandal.
US officials discounted frictions with Germany, which relies on Russia for natural gas. They said the US has been working closely with Berlin and Brussels on a “swift and punitive package of sanctions” to be imposed on Russia in the event of an invasion.
They stressed – as Scholz has in previous interviews – that Germany was the second greatest contributor of non-military assistance to Kyiv behind the United States and reiterated the vital role Germany played in bringing US forces to Romania, which shares a border with Ukraine.
A senior US administration official contended that Germany shares US concerns about Russian aggression and their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The official added that the two countries were “completely agreed” on the importance of additional measures such as sanctions and the deployment of additional troops to NATO’s eastern flank in the event of an invasion.
Sanctions loom in the wake of the Nord Stream 2 impasse.
While the details of the sanctions package are still being worked out, a second senior US official stated that barring Russia from the SWIFT financial transaction system remains an option.
Biden, a longtime opponent of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, would state unequivocally that the pipeline will not proceed if “Russia invades Ukraine in any form,” the first official added.
Germany, which imports half of its gas from Russia, has postponed permission of the pipeline until at least the second half of 2022 but has thus far refused to scrap the nearly-completed project.
Scholz and Biden will discuss Germany’s agenda for this year’s Group of Seven wealthy nations presidency, their support for Western Balkan countries, and their efforts to coordinate bilateral and multilateral responses to China’s non-market economic practices and human rights abuses, according to US officials.
According to Steven Sokol, president of the American Council on Germany, Scholz needed to clarify Germany’s position on Nord Stream 2 and demonstrate more “creativity” in assisting Ukraine without sending in weaponry.
“Germany must understand that if it wants to be a more significant role on the world stage and shoulder greater responsibility, it must also take greater action,” Sokol added. “To maintain its position as a leader, Germany must do more.”