During a brief visit to Washington, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) discussed how to proceed in the Ukraine crisis with US President Joe Biden.
Shortly after the first anniversary of the start of the war, the two heads of government promised longer-term support for Kiev in repelling the Russian attack at a meeting in the White House on Friday. After debates about German hesitation in recent months, Scholz received public praise from the US President for what Germany had done for Ukraine. Most of the brief visit, however, took place behind closed doors.
Joint cooperation with a view to Ukraine
In a four-minute statement at the start of the meeting, both invoked the transatlantic partnership and close cooperation with a view to the war in Ukraine. Biden thanked Scholz for a "strong and consistent leadership". In the past year, Germany has provided crucial military and moral assistance to Ukraine. The Chancellor also promoted "historic changes" in Germany. The drastic increase in defense spending and the move away from Russian gas were difficult decisions. Biden stressed that the US and Germany have always worked together in support of Ukraine and will continue to do so.
Scholz said in English that joint support for Ukraine over the past year was very important. "Now it is very important to send the message that we will continue this for as long as necessary." And he praised the cooperation with the USA: "I really appreciate the very good cooperation between the two of us."
Scholz for the second time as Chancellor in Washington
It was the chancellor's second visit to the White House in almost 15 months of his tenure. At the beginning of February 2022, Scholz was in Washington for an inaugural visit. Even then, Ukraine played the central role. At that time, tens of thousands of Russian soldiers had already deployed at the border of the neighboring country. A good two weeks later, on February 24, 2022, Russia then began the invasion. The war has now been raging for over a year.
This time, Scholz traveled to Washington for a brief working visit - just to meet Biden. The Chancellor did not take journalists or business representatives with him, and he also refrained from holding a press conference. The format had caused some guesswork in advance. Scholz and those around him repeatedly emphasized that it was simply a matter of personal exchange in the middle of a complicated world situation.
Scholz and Biden sat together for just over an hour. There were no subsequent statements. As is customary after such meetings, the White House issued a brief, four-sentence written statement. It said the two discussed ongoing efforts to provide security, humanitarian, economic and political assistance to Ukraine, and discussed other global issues.
The US announced on Friday more military aid to Ukraine worth 400 million US dollars (around 377 million euros). According to the latest Pentagon figures, US military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war has totaled more than $32 billion, not including the new package. The United States is considered Ukraine's most important ally in the defense against the Russian invasion.
Debate on main battle tanks for Ukraine
At the end of January, after much back and forth and parallel to the German commitment to supply Leopard tanks to Kiev, the US government also announced that it would deliver 31 M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Ukraine. However, the US government emphasized that it would take "many months" for these to arrive on the battlefield in Ukraine. Most recently, there had been conflicting accounts from the White House and the Chancellery as to how the pledge of main battle tanks to Ukraine came about. Biden's security advisor Jake Sullivan said shortly before Scholz's visit that Germany had made the delivery of US tanks a condition for the commitment of German Leopard tanks. The federal government denied that. Biden and Scholz did not comment publicly on Friday.
They also left out another topic with potential for conflict in their brief public statements: the anti-inflation law. Biden launched a multi-billion dollar US investment program in the summer. It provides for investments in climate protection, but ties many subsidies and tax credits to companies using US products or producing them themselves in the USA. This is met with a lot of criticism in Berlin and Europe - out of concern for competitive disadvantages. The topic is also likely to come up during a visit by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to Washington next week. Von der Leyen is expected to speak with Biden at the White House on Friday (March 10).