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German chancellor pledges help for Ukraine

March 23, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated a plan to bolster defense spending while pledging to take on more refugees. "We are standing before a monumental challenge," he said.

Olaf Scholz speaking
Olaf Scholz' speech focused on Ukraine but touched on several other issuesImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Scholz again nixes no-fly zone and boycott of Russian oil, gas

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addressed Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, on Wednesday to outline his government's policies amid a spectrum of challenges, ranging from fallout from the war in Ukraine to lingering consequences of the COVID pandemic.

His speech on the second day of a four-day parliamentary debate on Germany's budget began with focusing on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including its economic effects on Germany.

'Ukraine can count on our help'

In a response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's appeal for German support during a video address to the Bundestag last week, Scholz said: "President Zelenskyy, Ukraine can count on our help."

Scholz said that his government was doing all it could to help end Russia's war on Ukraine.

"We will try everything we can until peace prevails again on our continent," the chancellor said, mentioning his talks with Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin as one effort to this end.

Scholz insisted, however, that NATO would not engage in a direct military confrontation with Russia over the invasion of Ukraine, saying the West would instead continue to tighten sanctions on Moscow.

"NATO will not become a party to the war," Scholz said, adding that allies in the US and the EU supported this position. He reiterated that Germany will not support Kyiv's demands for a NATO-backed no-fly zone over Ukraine

On refugees, Scholz said that Germany was facing a major challenge taking in the thousands of people arriving each day, but said EU countries were showing great solidarity over their support.

"The refugees are welcome here," he said. Over 238,000 refugees from Ukraine have already arrived in Germany, according to the federal police. 

 Ukrainian refugees at Cologne raliway station
Germany is seeing thousands of Ukrainians arrive as they flee fighting in UkraineImage: Henning Kaiser/dpa/picture alliance

Scholz also called on President Putin to stop the war immediately, emphasizing that the Russian president needs to understand that his attack on Ukraine was not only "destroying that country but Russia's future." 

He said Europe would end its energy dependence on Russia but that to do so overnight would risk hundreds of thousands of jobs and entire industrial sectors.

"Sanctions should not hurt European states harder than the Russian leadership," Scholz said.

On defense spending, Scholz said planned hikes in Germany's military budget in response to the war would not impact on expenditure on health care, the fight against climate change and social welfare.

Scholz added that German residents would receive financial support amid rising energy prices. He said renewable energy sources and energy efficiency were key to reducing dependency on Russia in the long term.

 Friedrich Merz
Opposition leader Friedrich Merz opened the session with a speech criticizing government policyImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

What did he say about the COVID pandemic?

The chancellor also touched on another major challenge, the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that many financial aid mechanisms would remain in force to help people and businesses recover from the consequences of the pandemic. Scholz promised Germany would do everything in its power to ensure that another infection wave would not hit the country in autumn.

"To avoid such a deja-vu, we need to make proof of vaccination mandatory," he said. He called on lawmakers to take steps toward this in the next weeks. "It will lead us out of the pandemic," he said.

Call for international solidarity

Scholz said that to cope with these challenges, social solidarity was necessary at an international level, including in NATO and the EU.

"We will show the world that we stand together," he said.

"Freedom and democracy are suddenly not abstract concepts anymore, but things that must be defended."

Zelenskyy addresses German parliament

 tj/wmr (dpa, AFP)