Germany’s Scholz Visits Washington Amid Worries Over Ukraine War

There will be no state dinners, no press entourage and little fanfare. During a two-day visit to Washington to meet President Biden, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, wanted to get down to business right away. The question many people in Berlin are asking is what that business is.

“What is the purpose of your trip to Washington today? Why do you travel there? Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany’s main opposition party, the Christian Democratic Party, told Mr Scholz in a speech at the German Parliament on Thursday.

A one-line statement about the Washington visit was released by the prime minister’s press office ahead of the trip: The two leaders will discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a year later, and its support. of the West towards Kyiv.

The quiet nature of the visit – with no invited press, no press conference, and not even an outline of his plans in his speech to the German Parliament before the trip – has prompted a Some in Berlin’s foreign policy circles wondered if this was a visit. reflects a growing sense of urgency on both sides of the Atlantic to find a new route to ending the conflict in Ukraine.

Ulrich Speck, a German foreign policy analyst, said: “I think we are at a difficult time, because the question of the end game is becoming bigger, bigger and more important every day. more important than in the US, as well as in Europe”. “So I think it’s been a year and looking back, it’s also very much looking forward to and to the question: How will this end?”

A spokesman for Mr Scholz said the silent nature of the trip was an “exceptional” but stressed that it did not reflect any serious situation, merely the “focus of work” of the visit. .

Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman in the National Assembly of Mr Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats, rejected the notion that the talks would focus on an “end game”.

“Foreign policy always has scenarios, and of course, they will go through these different scenarios,” he said. “But the idea is to have a real visit and work. It is not a state visit. It’s really about sitting together, putting all the cards on the table, weighing options, sharing judgments and debating very freely without being forced to make any immediate results on the table. any records.”

European leaders are worried about how support for Ukraine will play out in next year’s US presidential election, with some parts of the Republican Party skeptical of military support for Kiev. . And nearly all Western leaders fear whether their people might tire of Ukraine’s long and costly backing, especially when war exposes many flaws in their own country — from military preparation to power supply.

In Berlin, a protest against military support for Ukraine last Saturday drew 13,000 people, police said – reflecting the fact that a notable segment of the German population still does not want The West joined the war.

Trying to strike a balance between domestic vigilance and calls for stronger military support for Ukraine by European allies from Germany, Mr. Scholz issued a cautious statement reaffirming support for Ukraine. Ukraine before leaving for Washington.

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“Most people want our country to continue to stand with Ukraine,” he said. “And we have done so since the beginning of the war: decisively, in a balanced way, in close coordination with our friends and partners.”

Another point on the agenda could be Iran, the lawmakers said, because Germany has come under increasing pressure from Israel to address reports that Iran has temporarily ramped up its uranium enrichment. In turn, Germany has legal concerns in Israel under its new right-wing government that it may also want to discuss with Washington, Mr.

China is also said to be a subject, especially since Washington has warned that it believes Beijing is considering sending weapons to Russia. According to lawmakers, Mr. Scholz certainly warned against such deliveries in his parliamentary speech, although Germany has yet to be provided with proof of that.

In his address to Congress, Scholz also hailed the transatlantic relationship as “closer and more trustworthy than ever.”

However, the nature of that relationship may also need to change, some observers warn.

So far, Mr. Scholz has been adamant that every step Germany takes in military support to repel the Russian invasion must be done in coordination with its allies – but most importantly with Washington.

That stance was heavily strained last month, when Washington and its European allies put pressure on Germany to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine. The prime minister only agreed to the move when Washington also pledged to send some of its sophisticated Abrams tanks, despite objections from the US military that the vehicles would not be useful to Ukraine.

Germany has described the plan as a joint agreement between countries. But a week before the prime minister’s visit, Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, suggested in an interview with ABC News that the president made the move to appease the Germans.

“For the sake of unity in the alliance and to make sure that Ukraine gets what it wants, despite the fact that Abrams is not the tool they need, the president said, OK, I will be the leader. religion of the free world. I will send Abrams down the street if you send Leopards now,” Mr. Sullivan said. “And this is really an example of Joe Biden rallying a global coalition to get what Ukraine needs.”

These statements immediately rekindled debate in Berlin about whether Washington felt compelled to agree to something it did not want to do. Mr. Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, dismissed the idea: “I hardly imagine a German chancellor could dictate terms or make any demands on an American president.” .

Sudha David-Wilp, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, a US think tank, said that although she did not understand the statement as an attempt to poke fun at the chancellor, it could be ” a signal that the cover type cannot last forever.”

“Those types of transactions may not be something Germany can depend on in the future,” she said. She added: “The US also wants to encourage Germany to act in concert with its European allies without Washington being involved.

That may not be something Mr. Scholz, who has always declared his desire to work closely with Washington, would be willing to accept.

However, officials in both countries say the working relationship between the two leaders is good.

“For foreign policy, they are very similar,” Schmid said. “So I think on a personal level, they really enjoy talking, sitting together and having a conversation and thinking things through.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.


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