Amid the uncertainty, Biden is eager to demonstrate Western unity against Putin’s aggression. Ahead of the president’s meeting with Scholz, U.S. officials said the two leaders would spend most of their time together discussing the Ukraine issue, including a “robust sanctions package” in preparation to punish Moscow in the event of invasion.
When they sat in the Oval Office, Biden said the United States and Germany were “working together” to deter Russian aggression. They were to hold a press conference later in the day.
However, the question of Scholz’s determination to take on Putin looms over the meeting. Of the US’s key European allies, Germany has emerged as the most reluctant to commit to lethal aid, sending thousands of helmets instead of weapons and refusing to allow another NATO ally , Estonia, to send German-made howitzers to Ukraine.
Germany has not joined the United States, France, Spain and other allies in bolstering troops along NATO’s eastern flank. And Scholz did not specify in detail what sanctions he might be prepared to impose on a country that is still a major trading partner for Germany.
Frustrated US officials
The impression that Germany is unwilling – or, because of its energy dependence on Russia, is unable – to offer serious deterrents has frustrated some US officials.
A senior administration official on Sunday sought to downplay any concerns about Germany’s position, saying NATO members each bring their own strengths.
“The beauty of having an alliance with 30 NATO allies is that different allies are stepping in to take different approaches to different parts of the problem,” the official said, noting that the United States and Germany were working closely together. on sanctions and that Germany was an important economic player. donor to Ukraine and provided humanitarian aid.
The official also highlighted Germany’s diplomatic efforts, alongside France, to revive a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and Russia. And the official said the United States and Germany were aligned on their views on building up troops along the Ukrainian border.
“I absolutely think that our countries are united in terms of awareness of the risk of further Russian aggression against Ukraine. We have long shared intelligence with Germany, with the rest of our allies. We are engaged in very regular exchanges of conversations, both by the White House and the State Department, our embassy in Berlin, our other agencies, about the situation. And I think there is absolutely absolute agreement that s ‘there is new Russian aggression, that there are a number of things that need to be done in terms of deploying additional troops to the eastern flank, and imposing a broad package of economic sanctions,’ the manager said.
Scholz insisted that Russia would pay dearly if its troops crossed into Ukraine.
“We are intensely engaged with all of our allied partners in the European Union, with the Ukraine issue, almost no issue occupies us anymore,” Scholz said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF before heading to Washington. He went on to say that a Russian attack on Ukraine would have a “very high price”.
The fate of Nord Stream 2
A day before Scholz arrived at the White House, Biden’s aides clarified their position, though their incoming visitor was opaque on the matter.
“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on the show on Sunday. NBC’s “Meet the Press”. “And Russia understands that. We are coordinating with our allies in Europe on this and that will be the reality if Russia chooses to move forward.”
The senior administration official told reporters that the United States had made its position clear to the Scholz administration. “We will continue to work very closely with Germany to ensure the pipeline does not move forward,” the official said.
The Nord Stream issue highlights Scholz’s predicament with Russia for its aggression in Europe. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian energy, making it difficult to impose harsh sanctions without risking an oil and gas shutdown during the cold winter months.
Scholz, meanwhile, faced the awkward association of a predecessor of his political party with close ties to Russia’s energy industry. Gerhard Schroeder, the latest Social Democratic Party politician to serve as chancellor, sits on the board of Nord Stream 2. And last week Russian gas giant Gazprom announced that Schroeder had also been appointed to its board. administration.
There has been only one other Chancellor since Schroeder left office in 2005: Merkel, whose absence from the world stage after her 16-year term has been keenly felt, particularly as Putin tests the determination of the West.
This time, it is not the German leader who emerges in this role but the Frenchman. President Emmanuel Macron has spoken several times a week with Putin and made his third phone call in a week to Biden on Sunday evening. Macron is traveling to Moscow and Kiev earlier this week.
Scholz has not played such a visible role in defusing the latest crisis, earning him criticism from Germans who accuse the chancellor of making himself invisible in a tense moment. In an apparent attempt to deter that impression, Scholz will also travel to Russia and Ukraine later this month.