Biden: "Germany is completely, totally, thoroughly reliable"
President Biden repeatedly and vigorously defended Germany's reliability as an ally at a press conference with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday, insisting that "there is no need to win back trust" when it comes to Berlin's approach to NATO and Ukraine.
Why it matters: Scholz's first visit to the White House since he succeeded Angela Merkel in December has been overshadowed by accusations that Germany is unwilling to stand up for Ukraine as it faces the threat of a large-scale invasion by Russia.
- Germany has declined to send defensive weapons to Ukraine, including denying a request from NATO ally Estonia to transfer German-origin Howitzers to Ukraine.
- Germany is also heavily reliant on natural gas from Russia and has been criticized for allowing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to proceed despite warnings from Ukraine that the project backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin poses an "existential threat" to its security.
Driving the news: "If Russia invades — that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine again — then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it," Biden, who waived sanctions on the pipeline last year to help repair relations with Germany, told reporters.
- Asked how specifically that would happen given that Germany controls the project, Biden responded: "I promise you, we will be able to do it."
- Scholz added: "We are absolutely united and we will not [be] taking different steps. We will do the same steps and they will be very, very hard to Russia, and they should understand."
- The chancellor has repeatedly declined to discuss Nord Stream 2 or specific sanctions under consideration in order to maintain "strategic ambiguity," but stressed on Monday that there will be "severe consequences" if Russia proceeds with an invasion.
The big picture: Biden aggressively rejected speculation in the media that Germany is not a reliable NATO ally, pointing to close trans-Atlantic coordination on possible sanctions, its hosting of U.S. troops sent to shore up NATO defenses, and the robust economic assistance that Germany has provided Ukraine.
- "Germany is completely reliable. Completely, totally, thoroughly reliable. I have no doubt about Germany at all," Biden said.
- "We are united, and the trans-Atlantic partnership between Germany and the U.S. is one of the permanent pillars of German policy," Scholz added.
Worth noting: Biden reiterated the U.S. position that it's unclear whether Putin has made a decision on whether to invade Ukraine, but that he has the capacity to do so and that "it would be wise" for Americans to leave Ukraine.