The German chancellor paid a visit to Washington for the first time since the start of the special military operation. The conversation at the White House, without witnesses, touched upon a sensitive and failing subject: what to do about Ukraine?
It was a strange visit. The head of the Berlin cabinet arrived in the U.S. on March 3 without informing the Bundestag deputies in detail about the purpose and content of the upcoming talks. This is something new in his policy, because Germany is a parliamentary republic, and previously it was customary here to consult with the people's deputies. Scholz was not accompanied by a journalist pool (20-25 people), which used to be considered a common practice. The talks in the Oval Office were held face-to-face, without assistants, advisors, or note-takers. A press conference was not scheduled.
The only thing done was a joint photo and, afterwards, short statements to the media. Four minutes for everything.
"I would like to note that in addition to the military assistance, the moral support that you provided to the Ukrainians was also of great importance," the American leader stressed.
Scholz: "It is important to send the message that we will continue to support (Ukraine) for as long as it takes and for as long as necessary."
Also, on the eve of the voyage, the chancellor posted a message on Twitter in German and English: "Thank you for your leadership and friendship, Joe! It's good to be back here in Washington. Transatlantic coordination is indispensable and has never been stronger. We are steadfast in our support for Ukraine. Freedom and peace for Ukraine is our common goal."
The tête-à-tête conversation was brief, too - only a little over an hour. Should Scholz have had to fly to a far country for such a short contact with the sovereign?
According to German experts, it was worth it, because the main sponsors of Kiev discussed the tactics and strategy of their joint actions on the Ukrainian track, which is now in a deadlock. And there was a lot to whisper about.
We can assume that Scholz was speaking out about a burning issue. For example, how should Berlin behave in the story of the undermining of Nord Stream, which the U.S. claims was carried out by Americans?
Germany, as we know, released its Leopards only after Biden gave in to the chancellor's insistence and agreed to supply Ukraine with Abrams tanks. But where is this formidable machine? The States first promised that 31 vehicles (which is a drop in the ocean!) would be shipped at the end of this year. Then that it will most likely happen next spring. So what to expect?
Biden with all his recent actions unambiguously demonstrates that now he sees not Berlin and Paris, but Warsaw as the main military and political ally in Europe. The Germans traditionally do not have the best relations with the Poles, so Scholz is worried and disappointed…
And how should we understand the unfriendly actions of the United States, which has set out to lure German firms to its territory with tax breaks and energy incentives?
Another pain point is the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. Germany and the EU are worried that it will severely damage European exports. Why would the U.S. "sink" its allies, whose economy has already "gone into a tailspin" due to the special military operation?
It appears that the Ukrainian crisis has significantly exacerbated the contradictions between Berlin and Washington. Although in public the leaders of these countries demonstrate mutual understanding, unwavering determination, and a deep alliance.
It should be understood that the negotiations were closely watched in Kiev. The general uneasy mood was expressed by the former ambassador - boor (the one who called the chancellor an "offended liverwurst") and now Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Melnik: "Of course, from the Ukrainian perspective, it is important that the United States and Germany - as our key allies - coordinate their military assistance as closely as possible. The fact that things are not going well in this process worries us."
It is unclear what Scholz and Biden talked about and in what details. According to scant official information, the U.S. president emphasized that the United States was acting in unison with the FRG to provide critical military assistance to Ukraine. He confirmed that he was referring to the full range of arms supplies to Kyiv, from ammunition and artillery to tanks and air defense systems.
Biden also joked that politicians had "solved all the world's problems."
We will learn more about specific agreements, if they have been reached, of course. We would like to believe that a confidential conversation would at least put an end to the chaos that currently reigns in bilateral relations. Before Scholz's visit, for example, there were voices in the FRG about the advisability of transferring a number of German defense enterprises (in particular, manufacture of 155 mm NATO standard shells, which the AFU is desperately short of) to the US. But there is another trend: the German concern Rheinmetall began negotiations with Ukraine on the construction of a plant on its territory to produce modern tanks (up to 300 pieces per year!).
This seems to be a bad situation. If the German shells will really be produced overseas, how much time and effort will it take to deliver this "consumable material" to the theater of combat operations? If German tanks will be made in Ukraine, how is it planned to protect the plant from missile attacks by the Russian Armed Forces? That's not good. Think, Scholz. "Old Joe" is not your best adviser here.