German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended his government’s response to the Russia-Ukraine security crisis and affirmed his willingness to punish Moscow for any invasion ahead of his first White House meeting on Monday with President Joe Biden.
In an interview with The Washington Post conducted last Friday and published Sunday evening, Scholz sought to counter perceptions that Germany has been reluctant to stand against Russia as the Kremlin mounts a military buildup along Ukraine’s borders, arguing that “reality is more important than rumors.”
“The reality is that Germany is the biggest NATO partner in continental Europe, that we are continuously strengthening our military forces, that we are a very good partner,” Scholz said.
“We are cooperating with our allies in NATO and [the European Union], and with the United States, on the question of how to react to this threat to Ukraine that is coming from Russia,” he continued. “Our strict response is saying it will have very high prices if they intervene and that we work very hard to get a way out of this situation.”
Scholz also suggested that he might be open to halting the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline should Moscow launch a renewed invasion of Ukraine. The United States has already pledged that the project will not move forward if Russia pursues further aggression.
“We are ready to take together with our allies all necessary steps,” Scholz said, adding: “It is absolutely clear that in a situation like this all options are on the table. Please understand that I will not get into any specifics, but our answer will be united and decisive.”
Scholz, who succeeded Angela Merkel as German chancellor last December, is scheduled to meet with Biden on Monday afternoon. He told the Post that his White House visit will focus on “strengthening our transatlantic partnership” and praised the Biden administration’s diplomacy with Moscow.
“It is absolutely key that there is a strong unity between all the major partners, the transatlantic parties and between the United States and Germany. We worked hard to send a clear message to Russia that it will have a high price if they were to intervene into Ukraine,” Scholz said.
“I really appreciate what President Biden is doing in the bilateral talks between the United States and Russia,” he continued. “They are very difficult. They have a very difficult agenda. But it is strength and leadership — what he is doing there.”
Scholz also plans to visit Ukraine next week before traveling to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At that meeting, Scholz told the Post that he will warn Putin that Russia will pay “a very high price” if it moves troops into Ukraine.