He again ruled out German arms deliveries to Ukraine, and avoided committing to stopping the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion. “We know what needs to be done,” announced the Chancellor vaguely.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was ready for further talks shortly before Scholz’s visit. Despite the US and its allies’ refusal to respond to key Russian demands, the dialogue should be maintained, he said in a meeting with Putin. According to Lavrov, the possibilities for talks are “far from exhausted”.
With his visit, the Chancellor made it clear that he will support Ukraine, but did not want to reveal any details about the leverage he could use against Putin. Unlike Scholz, Selenski also addressed Nord Stream 2 directly.
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The most important signal that Olaf Scholz sent from Kiev to Vladimir Putin was the fact that the Chancellor first came to the Ukrainian capital and only then traveled to Moscow. Otherwise, Scholz stuck to his “strategic ambiguity,” which he summed up after his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with the vague promise: “We know what needs to be done.”
Instead of a clear announcement to stop the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline in the event of an invasion, there were statements of solidarity and a lot of money. “Germany stands firmly by your side,” Scholz assured the Ukrainian, reiterating that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are non-negotiable.
Scholz couldn’t get the word “Nord Stream 2″ out of his mouth in Kiev either. Selenski is completely different: “We see Nord Stream 2 exclusively as a threat. We see this as a geopolitical weapon,” he said, repeating his call for arms supplies.
Scholz stuck to the restrictive line of the federal government on the question of arms exports and instead announced the accelerated payment of a credit line of 150 million euros and further credit assistance of the same amount. “No country in the world has given Ukraine more financial support than Germany,” he said, promising that it would remain so. He called on German companies to continue investing in the Eastern European country.
Not only Scholz made financial commitments to Ukraine during his visit. A statement by the finance ministers of the seven leading industrialized nations (G7) said the G7 wanted to preserve Ukraine’s independence and the country’s economic stability. “It is not often that the G7 comment on current diplomatic issues,” said Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP). “Now it is required.”
More on the conflict over Ukraine:
Selenski made a good face during Scholz’s visit, but did not hide his disappointment that his expectations were not met: “I don’t know what sanctions are planned. Mr. Scholz couldn’t answer my question either.”
The Chancellor continues to rely on “de-escalation” and wants to revive the Minsk Agreement negotiated with Putin in the Normandy format. So far, the talks have made little progress. The problem is that Putin now sees the agreement as a lever to withdraw Ukraine from Western influence, while Scholz sees it as a basis for securing the sovereignty of the government in Kiev. He welcomed Zelensky’s plans to introduce legislation to fulfill the agreement.
Meanwhile, the Russian parliament is flirting with the open breach of the agreement: On Monday, the Kremlin party United Russia tabled a motion in the Duma to officially recognize the separatist regimes of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) as independent. Ukraine had eight years to fulfill its commitments in the peace process.
G7 threaten Russia with economic sanctions
In Berlin, the importance of the meeting with Putin on Tuesday was not downplayed, but the expectations were. It is unlikely that after the meeting you will be “in a completely different game”.
Russia is ready to negotiate
At a meeting with President Putin, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said some of Russia’s troop maneuvers will be completed shortly. The Foreign Ministry also gave in: Russia is ready to continue negotiations, said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “I think our options are far from exhausted,” said the chief diplomat.
The statement by the Ukrainian ambassador in London, who spoke in a BBC interview about the possibility that Ukraine could refrain from joining NATO if this prevented a war, met with great interest. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called this a step in the right direction. Zelensky emphasized that NATO membership remains a “long-term dream” for Ukraine. “However, the question of alliance membership is not pending,” emphasized Scholz.
Meanwhile, the situation on the border with Ukraine remains tense. “We do not believe that Putin has already made the decision to invade,” said European security circles. But with 130,000 troops, Russia has now gathered enough forces to launch the invasion at any time. There is no doubt that it is an invading army.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed in a conversation with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba that while the US currently gives top priority to de-escalation, any military aggression by Russia against Ukraine would result in a swift, coordinated and clear response.
More: Biden stresses “quick and clear” response in case of Ukraine attack