Scholz to seek to shore up support for Ukraine, NATO on US trip

BERLIN – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will highlight Europe’s efforts to help Ukraine repel a Russian invasion during his trip to Washington this week, government officials said on Tuesday, in an apparent bid to shore up stalling support there for Kyiv.

Scholz will dine with U.S. lawmakers upon arrival on Thursday evening, the officials said. On Friday, he will have breakfast with U.S. business executives before meeting for one-on-one talks on Friday with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss primarily Ukraine, NATO and the Israel-Gaza war.

Scholz’s trip comes amid uncertainty over U.S. support for Ukraine with Congress stalling over Biden’s urgent request in October to approve an additional $61 billion. Republicans lawmakers are insisting that it be tied to an unrelated shift in immigration policy.

Scholz will give an update on European aid – for example German bilateral military assistance which totals around $30 billion since the start of the war nearly 2 years ago, the officials said.

The country has gone from being chastised for its reluctance to provide military aid at the start of the war, partly due to a pacifism in society rooted in its bloody 20th century history, to becoming the second biggest supporter after the United States.

“For the chancellor it is important that all states do their bit to provide support for Ukraine,” an official said. “So in this respect, close transatlantic coordination is important.”

Scholz will also want to address the future of NATO with Biden ahead of the defense alliance’s summit in Washington this July which will mark its 75th anniversary.

“From our point of view this summit should send the signal that NATO is determined and capable of securing our ability to deter and defend today and going forwards,” the official said.

The summit comes amid concerns a re-election of former U.S. President Donald Trump would weaken NATO.

One of Trump’s criticisms during his 2017-2021 mandate was that countries like Germany were not fulfiling their commitments to NATO, such as spending 2 percent of economic output on defence – a goal Berlin will finally reach this year after the Ukraine war spurred it to revamp its defence policy.

“For the chancellor it is important to tell the American public and his American counterparts that we stand for a stronger European column in NATO,” the official said.

Scholz is not set to meet with Trump during his visit, the official added, and there will be no news conference.

On Israel, Scholz would likely discuss with Biden how they could help diplomatically pave the way for an eventual two state solution, the officials said. REUTERS

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