Scholz: We are a very good NATO partner – politics

Before his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) rejected any doubts about Germany’s loyalty to the alliance and its reliability in the Ukraine crisis. “Reality is more important than rumours. The reality is that Germany is the largest continental NATO partner in Europe, that we are constantly strengthening our military forces, that we are a very good partner,” said Scholz in an interview published on Monday the Washington Post. This also applies in the event of Russian aggression against Ukraine. “Our clear answer is that it will have very high costs if they attack and that we are working very hard to find a way out of this situation,” emphasized Scholz.

Efforts to allay doubts about Germany’s reliability were also evident in the White House, where the chancellor was expected at noon Washington time. “Germany is one of our closest and strongest allies in Europe,” it said. Before Scholz’s visit, there was very close coordination with the federal government in preparing sanctions. It remained unclear whether this also applies in full to the controversial German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2. The US had “made its position very clear,” said an adviser to President Biden. “If Russia invades Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 will be stopped one way or another,” he said. This may also mean unilateral US sanctions.

Scholz himself said when asked about Nord Stream 2: “We are ready with our partners to take all the necessary steps.” The West must maintain “strategic ambiguity” towards Russia. However, he also referred to a German-American statement from July 2021, which was intended to settle the dispute over the pipeline. It warned Moscow not to use “energy as a weapon”. It should be ensured “that Russia does not use any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political goals”.

Scholz defended Germany’s refusal to supply arms to Russia’s beleaguered Ukraine, which was criticized in the United States. At the same time, however, he pointed out that Germany was the “strongest economic supporter of Ukraine”. “And we will continue to be,” he assured. To solve the crisis, Scholz is relying heavily on the 2015 Minsk Agreement to pacify the Donbass. It is important to make progress on the “components of the Minsk Agreement”. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of not implementing parts of the agreement. This Thursday, top officials from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are meeting in Berlin for the second time in two weeks in the so-called Normandy format to seek compromises.

In Washington, Scholz wanted to demonstrate above all agreement on the dual strategy agreed with the US government in the Ukraine crisis. On the one hand, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin is to be dissuaded from an attack on Ukraine through negotiations and, on the other hand, to be convinced of the seriousness of the sanctions threats by means of a western front that is as closed as possible. Before his visit to Washington, Scholz made several phone calls to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron. After his visits to Moscow and Kiev on Monday, Macron is expected in Berlin to brief both Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda. Poland currently holds the presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), which the German government wants to be more involved in the peace efforts. Next Monday, Scholz plans to travel to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and to Putin in Moscow the following day.

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