BIDEN SET TO MEET GERMAN CHANCELLOR SCHOLZ AT WHITE HOUSE ON FEB 7 ABOUT RUSSIA AND UKRAINE TENSIONS

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden will meet with the new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ​on February 7 at the White House. The two leaders are expected to discuss ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine among other topics, according to the White House. 
 
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “They will also discuss the importance of continued close cooperation on a range of common challenges, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the threat of climate change, and promoting economic prosperity and international security.”

The one-on-one session will be Scholz’s first Oval Office meeting since he took over Germany’s leadership last month, replacing longtime leader Angela Merkel.

Last week, a German government spokesperson denied a media report that Scholz had refused an invitation to discuss the Ukraine crisis that came on short notice from Biden.

Germany’s refusal to join the U.S. and other NATO members in providing weapons to Ukraine has annoyed some allies and raised questions about Berlin’s resolve in standing up to Russia. Experts say Germany’s position is partly rooted in its history of aggression during the 20th century. Germany’s own militarization in Europe during two World Wars has led German leaders through the years to view any military response as a last resort.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks as the U.S. and NATO partners express growing concern that a buildup of about 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine means that Moscow plans to invade its neighbor. Russia denies such intentions.

The White House announced the visit a day after the U.S. told Russia in writing that it is rejecting its main demands for resolving the long-term crisis over Ukraine. The Kremlin said Thursday the U.S. rejection left little ground for optimism.

Scholz became Germany’s ninth post-World War II chancellor in December, opening a new era for the European Union’s most populous nation and largest economy following the 15-year tenure of Angela Merkel.

Biden did speak with Scholz last month to congratulate him on his appointment and the two leaders discussed issues including efforts to address Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine.

The United States has spent weeks trying to build agreement with European partners on a strong sanctions package if Russia attacks.

Europe’s most divisive energy project, Nord Stream 2 is designed to double the amount of gas flowing from Russia straight to Germany, bypassing traditional transit nation Ukraine, on the bed of the Baltic Sea.

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany will not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine.

 It has faced resistance from the U.S. and from within the European Union on the grounds it increases Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and denies Ukraine transit fees, at a time of Moscow’s broader standoff with the West.

There wasn’t any mention of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being a topic of discussion by the two leaders in Psaki’s statement. I have a strong feeling that topic will be on the meeting table on February 7, or at least it should be.

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