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Biden thanks Scholz for 'profound' German support on Ukraine

March 4, 2023

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Biden have praised trans-Atlantic unity and vowed to keep up their joint cooperation to support Ukraine during Scholz's visit to the White House.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Biden speak in the White House Oval Office
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Biden speak in the White House Oval OfficeImage: Susan Walsh/AP/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held private talks with US President Joe Biden in the White House on Friday amid concerns that China might start sending weapons to Russia.

Scholz said cooperation with the US was "in a very good state" and added it was important to keep up their trans-Atlantic unity and their support for Ukraine. 

Scholz said it was "really important that we acted together," adding it is also "important that we give the message that we will continue to do so as long as it takes."

Biden said to Scholz: "I want to thank you for your strong and steady leadership. I mean that sincerely. It's made a huge difference." The US leader also thanked Scholz for Germany's "profound" support on Ukraine.

The two leaders held discussions behind closed doors but also spoke shortly in front of reporters.

This was Scholz's first trip to Washington DC after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Biden also praised Scholz's decision to increase Germany's military spending and diversify energy sources and reduce dependence on Russian gas.

"As NATO allies, we're making the alliance stronger," Biden added. 

Why are the US and Germany worried about China?

Ahead of the meeting, the German chancellor called on China to "use your influence in Moscow to press for the withdrawal of Russian troops," and not to "supply weapons to the aggressor Russia" in a speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told DW, "We still don't have any indication that the Chinese have decided to move forward providing any kind of lethal weaponry or capabilities to Russia.

"They haven't taken it off the table, but we don't see any signs that they're moving in that direction right now, and we certainly hope that they don't."

Such a move could have the potential to drag out the Russian war in Ukraine, which has already lasted over a year. It could also provoke friction between Germany and the US due to their differing stances on Beijing.

China is Germany's biggest trading partner. The possibility being floated by the US of imposing sanctions on China if it decides to send weapons may cause problems for Berlin which has suggested Beijing could have a role to play in bringing about peace.

Ukraine: Are new alliances dividing the world?

German and US 'deep bonds of friendship'

The low-key meeting between the two leaders also follows revelations from Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, that the US only agreed to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine because Germany had made it a condition for sending its own Leopard 2 tanks.

Scholz also likely brought up the issue of US subsidies for green technologies — part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which has sparked anger among US allies in Europe who say it puts their companies at a disadvantage while they face the brunt of the effects of Russia's invasion.

Friday's meeting "is not a sign of crisis. It is an opportunity to deepen the personal relationship between both leaders," said Sudha David-Wilp, head of the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund think tank.

"Washington is still looking to Berlin as the lead military power in Europe. It is an opportunity to take stock," she added.

rm, ab/sms (Reuters, AP)

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