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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been accused of undermining Europe by refusing to take a hard line on Russia despite warnings that Putin is about to invade Ukraine.

Scholz, who took over from Angela Merkel last month, has sought to maintain his predecessor’s warm relations with Moscow by refusing to supply arms to Kiev and ruling out sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas line if an attack is carried out. .

But the SDP leader, a socialist when he was a student, is now accused of aiding Putin and undermining the West by creating divisions within the EU, NATO and even his own fledgling coalition over how best to deter the Russian strongman.

Today, the German government even went so far as to inform journalists that isolating Russia from international banking systems, the so-called “nuclear option” of sanctions, was off the table, prompting angry denials from Washington.

Olaf Scholz, Germany’s new chancellor, has been accused of undermining NATO, the EU and his own country with a soft stance toward Russia, even as Putin prepares to invade Ukraine.

Western nations were said to be backing away from the idea for fear it would disrupt international markets, according to a government source who spoke to Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper.

But the line was quickly shot down by the US National Security Council, which insisted “no option is off the table” as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken prepares to travel to Moscow for a new round of talks. .

It is just the latest incident of Germany blinking at Russian aggression, after Scholz ruled out exporting weapons to Ukraine to defend against any attack.

He insisted on Monday that Germany has a long-standing policy of not exporting weapons even for defensive purposes, and has no intention of changing it.

On the same day, Scholz also dodged a reporter’s question about whether the Nord Stream 2 pipeline could be subject to sanctions if Russia attacks.

The pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany bypassing Ukraine and depriving Kiev of vital transport revenue, was completed last year but has yet to open.

Scholz has previously insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that the pipeline is not a political project and therefore should be exempt from sanctions.

Asked by a reporter in Madrid if he still held that view, Sholz demurred, saying only that Russia would face “serious consequences” if it attacked Ukraine.

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and SDP party general secretary Kevin Kühnert, two close Scholz allies, also spoke out in defense of the pipeline last week, saying it should be exempted.

Russia has begun moving its troops into Belarus for joint military exercises and live-fire drills as fears of an invasion of neighboring Ukraine grow.

Russia has begun moving its troops into Belarus for joint military exercises and live-fire drills as fears of an invasion of neighboring Ukraine grow.

Train and highway convoys of armored vehicles have been arriving after President Alexander Lukashenko announced the upcoming war games.

Train and highway convoys of armored vehicles have been arriving after President Alexander Lukashenko announced the upcoming war games.

Train and highway convoys of armored vehicles have been arriving after President Alexander Lukashenko announced the upcoming war games.

That is at odds with the government’s own defense minister, Green Party member Annalena Baerbock, who said on a visit to Kiev that he could come under attack.

Such divisions “are weakening Germany and the EU,” according to Stefan Meister, an Eastern Europe expert at one of Germany’s most respected foreign policy think tanks who spoke to the PIE.

His words echo a open letter signed by 70 German academics and foreign policy chiefs over the weekend calling on the government to urgently reconsider its stance towards Russia.

German ‘passivity’ towards Russian aggression over the past 30 years has hurt the West and emboldened Putin, they argue, saying his 2014 invasion of Crimea was the ‘logical consequence’ of Belin’s policies.

‘[Germany’s] Russia’s policy must be fundamentally corrected,” the letter says.

Merely verbal or symbolic reactions of Berlin to Russia [aggression] as in the past, it will only tempt the Kremlin to make new escapades.

“As a key country of the EU, NATO and the Western community of values, Germany bears a special responsibility.”

Facing mounting criticism, Scholz signaled on Tuesday that he would be willing to sanction the pipeline as a way to punish Russia, although he again refused to take a clear position on the issue.

In response to a question from journalists after a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenburg, Scholz was “clear that… everything will have to be discussed if there is a military intervention in Ukraine.”

putin

Lukashenko

Putin has justified the war games because of alleged NATO interference in Poland and the Baltic states that he says threatens Russia (on the right, ally Lukashenko, who also organizes war games)

The SDP has historically been closer to Russia than other German parties, and Berlin is under pressure to find a way to fill its energy gap as it withdraws from coal and nuclear power production and goes greener.

Opponents of Nord Stream 2, including Ukraine and the United States, say it will make Europe too dependent on Russia for energy supplies.

Ultimately, the fate of the project could be out of Germany’s hands, as it is subject to approval by European Union regulators.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week that the approval was linked to any potential conflict with Russia over Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said he had invited NATO allies and Russia to a new series of meetings at the NATO-Russia Council to discuss ways to improve the security situation, after an inconclusive first round of talks in two years last week.

“NATO allies are ready to discuss concrete proposals on how to reduce risks and improve transparency regarding military activities and how to reduce space and cyber threats,” he said at a joint news conference with Scholz.

“We are also prepared to resume exchanging reports on exercises and our respective nuclear policies.”

Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine. But Moscow says it could take unspecified military action if its demands, including the NATO alliance’s promise never to admit Kiev, are not met.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday during a visit to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow that it was hard not to assess Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine’s borders. as “a threat”.

Lavrov suggested that Nord Stream 2 would add to German and European energy security, saying that Moscow “drew the attention of our German colleagues to the counterproductiveness of attempts to politicize this project.”


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