Scholz is concerned about the ‘end game’ in Ukraine

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There will be no state dinners, no press entourage and no fanfare.

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During a two-day visit to Washington to meet with President Biden, the German chancellor, Olaf Schölz, wants to get straight to the point. What many ask in Berlin is what it is all about.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and U.S. President Joe Biden arrive for the official welcoming ceremony for the G7 summit at Elmau castle in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and U.S. President Joe Biden arrive for the official welcoming ceremony for the G7 summit at Elmau castle in Kruen, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

“What is the purpose of your trip to Washington today?

Why do you travel there?

I should have explained it here,” Friedrich Merz, leader of Germany’s main opposition party, the Christian Democrats, told Scholz on Thursday in a speech to the German parliament.

The chancellor’s press office published only a one-line statement announcing the visit to Washington ahead of the trip:

The two leaders will discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year later and Western support for Kiev.

The covert nature of the visit – with no invitation from the traveling press, no press conferences and not even a description of his plans in his speech to the German parliament before his trip – has led some within Berlin foreign policy circles to question whether it is a reflection of A growing sense of urgencyon both sides of the Atlantic, for finding a new road map to end the conflict in Ukraine.

“I think we are in a difficult time, because the bottom line is getting louder, bigger and more important in the United States, but also in Europe,” said Ulrich Speck, a German foreign policy analyst.

“So I think it’s been a year and looking back, I also look forward, and to the question:

How will it end?”

Goals

Mr. Scholz’s spokespeople say the off-duty nature of the trip is an “exception,” but stressed it’s not a reflection of a serious situation, but simply the “concentration at work“of the visit.

Nils Schmid, foreign policy spokesman in parliament for Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats, rejected the notion that the talks would focus on an “end game”.

“Foreign policy is always about scenarios, and of course they’re going to go through these different scenarios,” he said.

“But the idea is to have a real working visit. It’s not a state visit. It’s really sitting down together, putting all the cards on the table, weighing the options, sharing assessments and having a very free debate without being forced to produce no immediate result in any of the files.”

But there is growing speculation in Europe and Washington that despite public statements that they would support Kiev “for as long as necessary,” as Scholz put it, some Western leaders have begun to worry about how long a strong, unified front will last.

European leaders are concerned about the outcome of support for Ukraine in next year’s US presidential election, with sections of the Republican Party skeptical of military support for Kiev.

And nearly all Western leaders fear their populations will tire of sustained and costly support for Ukraine, especially as the war exposes many shortcomings in their own countries, from military readiness to energy supplies.

In Berlin, a protest against military support for Ukraine attracted 13,000 people on Saturday, according to police, reflecting the fact that a significant portion of the German population remains wary of Western involvement in the war.

Seeking to strike a balance between that domestic mistrust and European allies’ calls for Germany to provide bolder military support for Ukraine, Scholz issued a measured statement reaffirming his support for Ukraine before departing for Washington.

“Most citizens want our country to continue supporting Ukraine,” he said.

“And do it as we have done since the beginning of the war: decisively, balanced and in close coordination with our friends and partners.”

Another item on the agenda could be Iran, lawmakers said, because Germany has been under growing pressure of Israel to address reports that Iran has temporarily increased uranium enrichment.

In turn, Germany is concerned about the rule of law in Israel under its new right-wing government, and may want to discuss it with Washington as well, Schmid said.

It is also expected speak chinese, also because Washington has warned that it believes Beijing is evaluating the possibility of sending weapons to Russia.

Scholz made sure to warn against such shipments in his parliamentary speech, even though Germany has yet to receive proof of this, according to lawmakers.

In his speech to Parliament, Scholz also praised the transatlantic relationship as “closer and more trusting than ever”.

However, the nature of that relationship may also need to change, some observers warn.

Until now, Scholz has been adamant that any step Germany takes in providing military support to repel the Russian invasion will be done in coordination with its allies, but especially with Washington.

This stance came under severe pressure last month as Washington and European allies lobbied Germany to supply Leopard tanks to Ukraine.

The chancellor accepted the proposal only when Washington also promised to send some of its psychics abrams tanks, despite US military objections that the vehicles would be of no use to Ukraine.

Consent

Germany has described the plan as a joint agreement between nations.

But a week before the chancellor’s visit, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, suggested in an interview with ABC News that the move was made by the president to appease the Germans.

“In the interests of alliance unity and to make sure that Ukraine gets what it wants, even if the Abrams is not the tool they need, the president said, okay, I will be the leader of the free world. I ‘ I’ll send Abrams later if you send Leopard now,” Sullivan said.

“And this is actually an example of Joe Biden bring together the global coalition to give Ukraine what it needs.”

The remarks immediately reignited debate in Berlin about whether Washington felt compelled to agree to something it did not want to do.

Scholz spokesman Steffen Hebestreit dismissed the idea:

“I find it hard to imagine a German chancellor dictating conditions or making demands on an American president.”

Sudha David-Wilp, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, a US think tank, said that while it didn’t interpret the statement as an attempt to bash the chancellor, it could be “a sign that this kind of cover-up can’t last forever”.

“These types of transactions may not be something Germany can depend on in the future,” he said.

“The United States also wants to encourage Germany to act in coordination with its European allies,” he added, without the need for Washington to join.

This may not be something Scholz, who has always expressed a desire to work in unison with Washington, is willing to accept.

However, officials from both countries say the working relationship between the two leaders is good.

“In foreign policy, they’re very similar,” Schmid said.

“So I think on a personal level, they really like to chat and sit together and talk and think things through.”

c.2023 The New York Times Society

Source: Clarin

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