In a barrage of diplomatic work between two continents, U.S. President Joe Biden walked out of his meeting Monday with new German Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz promising that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany would be blocked should Moscow decide to invade Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, said the United States and its allies are the only ones talking about an invasion. Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron met for several hours at the same time that Biden and Scholz were talking at the White House with the purpose of defusing the crisis before an armed conflict erupts. Russia has sent thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine and adds military might on an almost daily basis.
The White House has expressed concern about the possibility of war, and Biden has sought to rally support among his European allies in order to impose heavy economic sanctions on Russia should it decide to invade. “We are prepared jointly and the whole of NATO is ready,” Biden said, referring to the alliance, to which Ukraine does not belong. While Biden reiterated with certainty that the pipeline would not operate, Scholz expressed the need to maintain some ambiguity around sanctions in order to pressure Russia to de-escalate tensions. “Russia needs to understand that a lot more could happen than it may have calculated,” Scholz said. The presence of more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has stoked Western concerns about a possible offensive.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned that Russia could invade Ukraine “at any time,” and unleash a conflict that would carry an “enormous human cost.” Putin described his lengthy conversation with Macron in the Kremlin as a business talk. He stressed that the United States and its NATO allies have ignored Moscow’s demands to offer security guarantees. He said NATO’s eastward expansion near Russia’s borders has violated the security principles of international agreements and mocked Western claims that it is a defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia.
Biden, Scholz pledge unity on Russian-Ukraine dispute
Biden and Scholz pledged a unified, forceful response to any Russian attack against Ukraine, including severe sanctions, and the two leaders dismissed questions about divisions in the alliance. “If Russia makes a choice to further invade Ukraine, we are jointly ready and all of NATO is ready,” Biden said at a press conference following a bilateral meeting between the two leaders. “We’re in agreement that it cannot be business as usual if Russia further invades.”
Biden and Scholz, the new German leader, met at the White House Monday for the first time as Russia continues to build up its military presence at the Ukraine border. Get the Everyone’s Talking newsletter in your inbox. Get caught up with the trending news you need to know delivery.
We cannot remain silent on that,” Scholz said. “We see the number of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border. And that is a serious threat to European security.
Biden says Nord Stream 2 will ‘end’ if Russia invades Ukraine
Biden said the U.S. would stymie Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline built to carry Russian natural gas to Germany, should Moscow invade Ukraine. The pipeline has been a flashpoint between the two countries, with Washington arguing it will give Moscow significant leverage over Europe. When asked to comment on Nord Stream 2, Scholz did not commit to ending the project immediately but he did not contradict Biden’s stance.
“There will be no longer a Nord Stream 2, we will bring an end to it,” Biden said when asked about the pipeline. Biden didn’t outline what steps the U.S. would take to stop the pipeline.”I promise you, we will be able to do it,” Biden said.
Scholz said that Germany has prepared “necessary sanctions” against Russia that will be “severe” and “far-reaching” should Putin decide to invade Ukraine. Scholz stressed that NATO “will act together” in response to any attack. Biden also pushed back on a question from the German media asking whether the U.S. doubted Berlin’s reliability.
“He has the complete trust of the United States. Germany is one of our most important allies in the world,” Biden said when asked if Germany’s tacit continuation of Nord Stream 2 undermines trust in the alliance. Scholz called the alliance a “very strong, unbreakable relationship.”