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Stoltenberg addresses Ukraine crisis with German leaders

March 17, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made clear that NATO will not "intervene militarily" in Ukraine during talks with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg also spoke with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock address a press conference at the Foreign ministry in Berlin.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock met as conflict rages in Ukraine following Russia's invasion.Image: John MacDougall/AFP

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday, as the war in Ukraine entered its fourth week. The meeting came just after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the German Bundestag via video link.

What did the leaders say?

Scholz opened his remarks alongside Stoltenberg by praising Zelenskyy for his "impressive words." But the German leader reiterated NATO's refusal to intervene militarily in Ukraine.

"One thing must also be made clear: NATO will not intervene militarily in this war," Scholz said.

Scholz's view matched statements repeated by Stoltenberg on Thursday that the military alliance's involvement in Ukraine would increase the likelihood of the war spreading. In Berlin, the NATO chief said the alliance's job is to de-escalate the conflict.

"NATO has a responsibility to prevent this conflict from escalating further," Stoltenberg said. "That would be even more dangerous and cause more suffering, deaths and destruction."

Stoltenberg also met with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during his visit to Berlin.

Beside Lambrecht, Stoltenberg called Germany's new defense commitments of a special fund of €100 billion ($111 billion) and plans to commit 2% of GDP to its defense budget "impressive."

Baerbock said Germany is considering stationing more troops on NATO's eastern flank.

Baerbock asked after harrowing attacks in the port cty of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine this past week, "What military objective is a maternity hospital with pregnant women? What military objective is a theater?"

Ukraine has repeatedly called for help from Europe and NATO. In particular, Kyiv has called for a no-fly zone. Lithuania's parliament unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the no-fly zone over Ukraine, joining countries including Estonia and Slovenia in the appeal.

Stoltenberg warns Russia

NATO praise for Germany

Additionally, the head of the military alliance praised Germany for its central role in NATO.

"Germany is at the heart of Europe and at the heart of the trans-Atlantic alliance," Stoltenberg said upon arrival in Berlin, adding that German leadership is crucial in the current crisis between Europe and Russia.

"I commend Germany for providing Ukraine with many types of support," the NATO chief said, highlighting how Germany has given Ukraine military, humanitarian and political support, as well as welcomed a share of Ukrainian refugees.

He also commended Berlin for its "political courage" to change a long-standing policy of under-investment in defense, choosing to spend 2% of GDP on defense spending and announcing the purchase of F-35 fighter jets.

jcg, ar/sms, wd (Reuters AFP)

Zelenskyy calls for Germany to do more to end war