This Tuesday the issue of tensions over Ukraine continues to be part of the discussion in Europe.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; The French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, expressed from Berlin their “absolute unity” in the shared goal of “preserving peace” in Europe, something that, in the opinion of the Franco-German axis, involves dialogue with Russia.
“Our assessment of the situation in Ukraine is identical,” Scholz said, in a joint appearance, prior to the meeting called in the German capital with the Polish and French presidents, the former returning from his trip to Washington and Macron returning from Moscow and Kiev.
The three respective countries currently hold the rotating presidencies of the European Union (EU) -on the French side-, of the G7 -on the German side- and of the OSCE -on the Polish side-, emphasized the German chancellor, which gave to their meeting “a special relevance”, in some “very difficult” moments.
Both Duda and Macron spoke in a similar vein, although the latter highlighted “dialogue” with Moscow as the only way to resolve the conflict.
It must be a “demanding” dialogue, nuanced the French president, aimed at avoiding “any risk of escalation.”
Scholz reiterated, for his part, that any attack on the Ukrainian territorial integrity will have a “forceful” response, in terms of economic and political sanctions, although without specifying their scope.
In turn, Duda highlighted the need to protect the integrity of Ukraine, a country that, without being a member of the European Union (EU) or NATO, “needs all our support”, while assuring that . “It is still possible to avoid a war.”
The work meeting in Berlin is part of the diplomatic gear deployed these days and at different levels by Western leaders, in the form of parallel trips between Europe and the United States, always with an eye on Moscow.
Scholz was returning from his first trip since he became chancellor to Washington, where he heard from the president of the United States, Joe Biden, phrases of unity and cohesion, but also the warning that if there is a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Nord Stream II gas pipeline it will not work.
The German chancellor has so far avoided giving a clear answer to the question of whether he includes the gas pipeline in the “high price” that, as he has repeatedly assured, Russia will pay in the event of a new aggression against Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
On the part of the Berlin government, only the Foreign Minister, the green Annalena Baernock, has explicitly linked Nord-Stream II with possible sanctions, in the event of a Russian invasion.
Differences between France and Germany
The chancellor has been criticized both in his country and by his main allies for his ambiguity or lukewarmness towards Russia. Next week he will hold his first leadership-level meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Macron, by contrast, has played the most dynamic part within the traditional Franco-German axis. His arrival in Berlin came after having starred yesterday in a media meeting with Putin, which he followed today, on his way to the German capital, another meeting with the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky.
The purpose of the French president – who represents with the German foreign minister the iron defense of the diplomatic channel – is to achieve some kind of progress to reactivate the so-called Normandy Format.
That is to say, the dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, sponsored by the Franco-German axis, which has barely achieved so far in the current crisis little more than preparatory meetings at the advisory level, the next of which is scheduled for the next day 10 in the German capital, Macron noted.
The meeting between Macron, Scholz and Duda is part of the so-called Weimar Triangle, an initiative of Germany, France and Poland in which the three countries have been addressing cooperation issues since 1991.
Diplomacy or deterrence
Faced with the crisis in Ukraine there are differences, especially with regard to Poland, which demands a firmer attitude towards Russia from the Western allies.
Warsaw seeks the effect of deterrence, through the increase of NATO’s military presence in the region. Berlin is the focus of criticism for its refusal to send weapons to Ukraine, to which is added its ambiguity regarding Nord Stream II, already completed but not yet operational, a subject of permanent controversy.
About 55 percent of the gas consumed in Germany is of Russian origin. Nord Stream II complements the already operational Nord Stream I, which transports Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic without touching Ukrainian soil.
Scholz has repeatedly insisted that Moscow will have to pay “a high price” in case of aggression against Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But he has dodged, every time it has been put to him, the question of whether that includes Nord Stream II. (I)
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