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Germany's Baerbock warns of Russian threat at first US trip

January 5, 2022

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned Russia against further incursions into Ukraine on her first official trip to Washington. She also said Iran squandered much trust over the nuclear deal.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock followed by photographers
Annalena Baerbock said Europeans 'have no partner stronger than the US'Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

In her first trip to Washington as Germany's foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock called Russia's military build-up on Ukraine's borders Europe's "immediate and urgent challenge" and emphasized any further incursions into Ukraine would result in serious consequences for Russia.

Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Baerbock warned Russia would pay a "high political and economic price."

However, Baerbock indicated the US and Germany were not in complete agreement when it comes to supplying Ukraine with weapons. The US has been sending weapons to Ukraine, provoking anger in Moscow.

Berlin was not considering arms exports, but Baerbock noted Germany had provided a military hospital to the Ukrainian army.

After meeting with Blinken, Baerbock also said that Iran had whittled away much trust and that little time remained to resuscitate the Iranian nuclear deal.

What did Baerbock say prior to departing for Washington?

 Baerbock on Wednesday underlined the importance of trans-Atlantic ties as she set off for her first visit to the United States as top German diplomat.

"The more difficult the times are, the more important strong partnerships are — and as Europeans, we have no partner stronger than the US," she said. "With my trip to Washington, I want to make it very clear [...] what great importance we attach to trans-Atlantic relations."

German-US ties hit a comparatively low point during the last US administration under Donald Trump, who was often seen as snubbing traditional allies. The current US government headed by Joe Biden has repeatedly said it wants to restore such alliances to their former status.

Baerbock's first official visit will be a short one, lasting just eight hours. It will include talks with Blinken and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

Antony Blinken and Annalena Baerbock at a round table, both masked
Baerbock (right) already met with Antony Blinken at the recent G7 meeting in LiverpoolImage: Olivier Douliery/AFP/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Russia in focus

Baerbock's visit comes as Russia has amassed troops near its border with Ukraine, prompting western allegations of a potential invasion. 

She said that Europe and the US both agreed that Russia's actions "came with a price tag" and that "the only way out of the crisis is through dialogue."

"We are now entering a decisive phase in which important talks are to take place at various levels. And even though the formats of the talks vary, our messages as trans-Atlantic partners to the government in Moscow are always the same ones," she said.

Despite Baerbock's assertion of trans-Atlantic unity in response to Russia, the pipeline Nord Stream 2, which is intended to carry Russian gas to Europe, could remain a point of contention.

The US long opposed the project, saying it could lead to an overreliance on Russia for energy needs, though it eventually reached an agreement with Germany on how it could acceptably go ahead.

Baerbock's own party — the Greens — shares the US reservations, but its coalition partners, the Social Democrats, have always been among the pipeline's biggest advocates.

Germany is also becoming ever more reliant on imported energy as it shuts down its nuclear and coal facilities.

Part of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been completed but awaits final authorizationImage: Jens Büttner/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild/picture alliance

What else did Baerbock say?

The foreign minister said that the trans-Atlantic partnership was important not only in regards to politics and security, but also when it comes to economic issues and climate change. 

"The strength of the trans-Atlantic alliance is not measured in tanks and missiles but first and foremost in the way we act in concert when it matters — when basic norms of international law have to be defended and we have to stand up for our common values," she said before heading to Washington.

Baerbock also spoke of the storming of the US Capitol last January by rioters protesting the defeat of former US President Donald Trump.

Noting that her visit comes a day before the anniversary of the incident, Baerbock said she would discuss ways of defending democracy from external and internal threats with Speaker Pelosi.

She also said that Germany would focus on international action to protect the climate during its year at the helm of the G7, which began on January 1.

"And what is decisive with these issues, too, is that we will only be successful if we tackle the challenges together as partners," she said, adding: "This includes strengthening democratic institutions in our own countries as well and making it more visible what enormous value they have for our lives."

tj/dj (dpa, AP)