March 24, 2023

russia: US turns heat on Germany to enlist support against Russia – Times of India

WASHINGTON: With German chancellor Olaf Scholz standing beside him, US President Joe Biden warned on Monday that Washington would shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is poised to supply Russian gas to Germany “if Russian tanks or troops cross the border into Ukraine again.”
The threat — which Scholz did not directly endorse aside from pledging to work with the United States — came even as French President Emmanuel Macron failed to convince Russian President Vlamidir Putin during talks in Moscow to back down from a military build up on the Ukraine border, which in Washington’s eyes presages an imminent invasion.
Russia has rubbished the American assessment that an invasion is imminent, but left little doubt that it will maintain a strong military posture as long as the US and Nato allies commit to pull back Nato expansion to its borders, including an undertaking that Ukraine will not be drafted in the group.
Nato’s strength has more than doubled to 30 countries since the end of the Cold War that dismantled the former Soviet Union. A grouping that had 12 founding members and ended at Italy is now at Russia’s doorstep, pulling in former Soviet republics in the Baltics. Ukraine, which Russia historically sees as being in its sphere of influence, is the new battleground.
In an effort to assuage Moscow, the US has indicated informally that Ukraine’s membership of Nato is not immediately on the cards, but Russia, which has been nibbling away at Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine, wants a formal commitment. On Monday, Biden even indicated that Washington had accepted Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory so far, saying US retaliation would come if Russia invades the border of Ukraine AGAIN.
But Russia remained unimpressed, with Putin apparently seeking ironclad guarantees from Macron. Moscow maintains that it is the US and its European allies who are being provocative in pushing east and trying to draft Ukraine into Nato, threatening Russia’s security and its sphere of influence.
“Do you understand it or not, that if Ukraine joins Nato and attempts to bring Crimea back by military means, the European countries will be automatically pulled into a war conflict with Russia?” Putin said in Moscow, talking up Russian nuclear prowess, which he claimed outperforms the west’s in some ways.
“There will be no winners. And you will be pulled into this conflict against your will,” the Russian leader warned, even as his aides later shot down French claims that he had agreed to reel back war games and deployments on the border.
Macron later left for talks in Kiev, and Scholz is scheduled to go to Moscow next week for more talks amid some frustration in Washington that European powers are not on the same page as the US with regards to countering Russia.
Some US analysts have expressed suspicion that Germany is not fully on board in Nato’s stand against Moscow because ff its energy dependency vis a vis Russia that supplies more than 25 per cent of its gas needs. But Biden pushed back at suggestions that Berlin is not a reliable ally, asserting, “Germany is completely reliable — completely, totally, thoroughly reliable. I have no doubt about Germany at all.”
The US is holding talks with gas-producing countries such as Qatar to secure back-up supplies for Germany in case Russia shuts off its pipeline, which could also be devastating for all sides — including to Russia, which would lose revenue besides facing severe sanctions if it does invade.
Biden said at the press conference that he and Scholz “discussed the challenges we’re facing to the international order from China, along with Russia and other competitors that are pursuing more illiberal futures.”

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