German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on February 7, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a joint news conference with U.S. President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on February 7, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Germany, US Agree To Condemn Russian Violence in Ukraine

Biden shot down speculation that there were cracks in the longtime partnership with Berlin.

German and American leaders on Monday sought to present a united front against Russian aggression in Ukraine during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first visit to the White House.

The message of solidarity follows weeks of speculation about whether Berlin will step up alongside other NATO members to deter Moscow. As other allies, including the United States, have sent more lethal aid to Ukraine, including ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, Berlin was mocked for its offer to send Kyiv 5,000 helmets. Germany also blocked Estonia from exporting weapons made in Germany to Ukraine.  

Despite that, President Joe Biden said that the longtime allies are completely united in their condemnation of Russia’s military buildup on the Ukrainian border, and will act together to impose harsh sanctions if Moscow further invades Ukraine. 

“He has the complete trust of the United States,” Biden said of Scholz during a joint press conference after their bilateral meeting. “There is no doubt about Germany’s partnership with the United States. None….Germany is…completely, totally, and thoroughly reliable.”

“We are united and the transatlantic partnership between Germany and the U.S. is one of the permanent pillars of German policy,” Scholz echoed. “This will be one of our top priorities always.”

The German chancellor  also defended his country’s aid to Ukraine, saying that it provides Kyiv more money for defense than any other European Union member. Germany is considering sending additional troops to Lithuania to reassure NATO allies, as the United States is doing in Poland and Romania. 

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Germany is “100 percent” committed to its responsibility to defend other NATO allies, even as it approaches the conflict in Ukraine differently from other members of the alliance. 

One of the biggest points of contention between the United States and Germany has been the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Russian-owned system that stretches under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline was recently completed but has yet to receive approval to begin delivering natural gas to Germany. That new route would hurt Kyiv, which makes about $1 billion each year in transit fees from Russia moving gas through the country in the existing pipeline.

Biden waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline last year as part of a deal with former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Republicans slammed Biden for lifting sanctions and have introduced legislation that would require the White House to impose new sanctions on the pipeline. 

Biden reiterated that the pipeline will not begin operations if Russia invades Ukraine. He also clarified what he means by “invasion.”

“If Russia invades—that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine again—there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.

Asked how he could do so, given that the United States is not involved in the pipeline’s construction, Biden said, “I promise you, we’ll be able to do it.”

German officials also said last month that the pipeline will not move forward if Russia invades. Sholz said that the two leaders are on the same page, but declined repeatedly to talk specifically about the fate of the pipeline.

“We are acting together. We are absolutely united and we are not taking different steps,” Scholz said. “We will do the same steps and they will be very, very hard to Russia.”