WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Monday the two countries are in agreement about confronting Russia in the event of further invasion of Ukraine, as both leaders sought to dispel the notion Berlin is an unreliable partner in the West’s managing of the crisis.
On his first visit to Washington since taking office, Scholz repeatedly sidestepped questions about the future of Germany’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline should Russian President Vladimir Putin order an attack on Ukraine. Critics argue NS2 gives Russia outsize influence over the German and European energy markets.
Biden said the pipeline “will not go forward” if Russia were to invade, which he defined as “tanks and troops crossing the border.” Scholz declined to say as much, noting only that retaliatory actions were already agreed upon and would be imposed in lockstep with Washington.
“We don’t spell everything out in public,” Scholz said, according to a White House translation of the event.
The White House press conference served as a boost to Scholz, whose government has declined delivering lethal military aid to Ukraine, trumpeting Berlin’s economic support to Kyiv instead. The policy has irked critics in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and at home, who accuse Berlin of weakening the West’s resolve.
“Germany doesn’t have to win back trust. They already have it,” Biden said.
The pronounced talk of diplomacy today is likely to disappoint those who hoped a visit from Scholz would lead to a more military-minded German posture toward Russia.
Earlier on Monday, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said he wants Germany to become “more involved” in the crisis. “It’s not about weapons in this case,” he said at an online discussion organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “It’s about attitude.”
Pabriks was referring to a shipment of nine Soviet-era howitzers Estonia wants to give Ukraine for defense. Berlin, as the original owner of the artillery pieces, is blocking the transfer.
He also said Germany should expand its troop commitment from Lithuania to the other two Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, and help pay for air-defense weapons.
The Germany defense ministry on Monday announced it would deploy up to 350 additional troops to the roughly 500 soldiers already in Lithuania under NATO’s enhanced forward presence initiative, put in place following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.