U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were meeting at the White House Monday for talks likely to be dominated by efforts to deter a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.
At the outset of their discussions, Scholz, who took power in Berlin in December, and Biden emphasized the close relationship between their two countries. But they have taken different approaches in assisting Ukraine, with the United States sending weapons to the Kyiv government, and Germany sending 5,000 military helmets Ukraine requested, while adhering to its long-held position of not shipping arms into a conflict zone.
Biden, nonetheless, said the two countries are “working in lockstep” to “further deter Russian aggression in Europe.”
Scholz replied, “We are closest allies and working intensely together. And this is necessary for doing the steps that we have to do, for instance, fighting against Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
In an interview with The Washington Post ahead of his talks with Biden, Scholz sought to assure NATO allies of Germany’s resolve in confronting Moscow, saying, “Our answer will be united and decisive” in the event of a Russian attack on Ukraine.
The two NATO members have expressed support for bolstering NATO troop positions in the eastern part of the alliance, with the United States ordering extra forces to Poland and Romania and Scholz saying Sunday he was open to strengthening a German-led battle group in Lithuania.
Another potential point of contention is Germany’s reliance on Russian energy supplies and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that is designed to bring Russian natural gas to that country. The pipeline is completed but not operational, with the U.S. saying it will not be opened if Russia invades Ukraine.
Scholz told German broadcaster ARD ahead of his trip to Washington that in terms of the pipeline, “We have considered all measures, and there is nothing that is ruled out.”
In addition to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Biden said the two leaders would discuss challenges posed by China, the stability of voting rights in the western Balkans, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other issues.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.