Joe Biden hosted new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Monday to publicly discuss the tense situation in Ukraine as Russian forces continue to give signals that an invasion may be imminent.
Biden and Scholz discussed their nations’ shared commitment to continue efforts to resolve the situation with Russian President Vladimir Putin by diplomatic means. The visit to the US was the first for Scholz since replacing Angela Merkel as German Chancellor.
The meeting came after weeks of coordination between the two nations and other European allies regarding proposed sanctions enacted in a Russian invasion. Scholz said last month that Germany would assist with economic sanctions but would not supply “lethal weapons” to defend against an attack. Germany’s position regarding sanctions and support for Ukraine has been significant to the European community, especially given its interest in the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline designed to ship natural gas directly to Germany from Russia.
Biden removed sanctions on the pipeline last year imposed during the Trump Administration, allowing the project to move forward. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has led Republican efforts to renew preemptive sanctions on the project. Democrats have blocked sanctions, saying they plan to use them only if Russia invades Ukraine.
Biden has placed 8,500 US troops on heightened standby around Eastern Europe, although Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said they are “not currently deployed.”
During Monday’s press conference at the White House, Scholz said that “Germany is an incredibly reliable ally.” He also told reporters that his country is the “biggest NATO partner in continental Europe” and has strengthened its military since he took office.
When he was asked if Germany was willing to discontinue the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline support, Scholz was vague. He only said that Germany is united with NATO and the US and will “take the necessary steps together.”
Biden said that Russia faces the “strongest sanctions ever seen” if it goes ahead with an invasion, and he further claimed that Germany has agreed with the sanctions plan. No specific sanctions details were discussed or released.
The next big step in the diplomatic process is likely to occur next Tuesday when Scholz is scheduled to meet in person with Putin. America, NATO, and Ukraine anxiously await further details regarding the resolve of Scholz and Germany and whether the pipeline will be more important than negotiating with Putin from a position of strength.