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Scholz wants dialogue with Moscow but warns of ‘high price’ for attacking Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday Germany was open to “constructive dialogue” with Russia but warned Moscow that any aggression against Ukraine would have “a high price.”

Scholz made the remarks in a speech to the Bundestag — his first since his election as chancellor last week — that set out the plans and priorities of his coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and liberals.

The new chancellor said the EU should act with more self-confidence vis-à-vis China and not turn a blind eye to human rights violations. He also vowed to determinedly fight the coronavirus pandemic and to take ambitious measures against climate change.

Scholz expressed concern about the situation at the Russian-Ukrainian border, where Moscow has been amassing thousands of troops that U.S. officials warn could be a preparation for a multi-front offensive against Kyiv.

“Any violation of territorial integrity will come at a price, a high price, and we will speak with one voice here with our European partners and transatlantic allies,” he said, without specifying what those costs would entail. He added, however, that he wants to keep channels of communication open.

“We are ready for constructive dialogue,” the chancellor said.

“Against the backdrop of our history, this must apply to our country in particular in its relations with Russia. We must be prepared to make more frequent attempts at understanding, to break out of the spiral of escalation, as we did for a time with the Normandy [Format],” he said, referring to talks launched in 2014 by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine to resolve the war in Eastern Ukraine, which have stalled more recently.

Scholz stressed that dialogue with Moscow should be a joint European endeavor and no German solo-run. “This must not be misunderstood as a new German Ostpolitik. In a united Europe, Ostpolitik can only be a European Ostpolitik,” he said.

More broadly, he also sought to quell concerns among Eastern European countries that Germany and France could try to decide among themselves what future directions the EU should take. “The future of Europe won’t be decided in Paris or Berlin,” he said, adding that “especially our country has a special responsibility to take into account the interests” of Eastern Europe.

Turning to China, Scholz remarked that the “Chinese leadership represents its interests with great self-confidence,” and concluded: “Germany and Europe have every reason to represent their interests with equal self-confidence and commitment. We must align our China policy with the China we find in reality.”

This also meant “that we do not turn a blind eye to the critical human rights situation [in China] and that we call violations of universal norms by their name,” the chancellor said, while also recognizing China’s important role in the world and the need to offer “cooperation on the challenges to humanity, such as the climate crisis, the pandemic or arms control.”

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