Berlin doesn’t trust Washington – POLITICO


Guten Tag and welcome to this first edition of Global Insider from our Europe team. Today it’s brought to you from Berlin by Matthew Karnitschnig, POLITICO’s chief Europe correspondent, and Hans von der Burchard, senior politics reporter for Germany.

From now on, every Wednesday, one (or several) POLITICO journalists from outside the U.S. will take the helm of this newsletter. Given the current focus on Germany and its struggles to take up a bigger role in foreign and security policy, we’re looking at current global trends through the lens of Berlin.

Follow Matthew and Hans on Twitter | Send tips and insights to [email protected] and [email protected]

EU-UKRAINE SUMMIT THIS FRIDAY: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will head to Kyiv this Thursday for the next EU-Ukraine summit happening Friday. The meeting will be “extremely important” for Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Tuesday, adding that “the fact that this summit will be held in Kyiv is a powerful signal to both partners and enemies.” However, no one else thinks Kyiv’s aim to join the EU in two years is realistic.

ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE? Last week’s breakthrough on sending Western-made battle tanks to Ukraine sparked hopes in both Washington and Europe that the tortured transatlantic debate over arming the country had been resolved once and for all.

If only. Just hours after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz cleared the way for the export of German-made tanks to the country, the focus shifted to the who, what, where and when of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine. Once again, Scholz was the first to slam on the brakes, repeatedly warning in recent days of the dangers of “escalation,” while insisting that NATO would not become directly involved in the conflict. If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, join the club.

There is a new wrinkle though. It turns out that an even bigger fear for Scholz than escalation is that NATO, and in particular the U.S., wouldn’t get involved if Russia were to retaliate against, say Germany. That worry — according to an adviser to the German government — is the reason that Scholz insisted that Washington agree to supply Ukraine with M1 Abrams tanks before the chancellor would lift his veto on delivering German-made Leopard 2 tanks.

What’s an article worth? While the NATO treaty’s Article 5 calls on alliance members to support one another in the event of an attack, it doesn’t require allies to respond with military force. “If the U.S. is involved directly it’s more likely to use military force to defend its allies in Europe,” Carlo Masala, a German military expert with strong ties to the country’s political establishment, said this week on German public television. “That’s a very strong rationale for Scholz and why he insists that the U.S. is involved.”

In other words, Scholz doesn’t trust the U.S. Given that Washington has about 40,000 troops in Germany and has already committed roughly $30 billion in military aid to Ukraine (more than 10 times the German total), one might reasonably question the logic underlying Scholz’s argument.

TANK BATTLES: No one is better versed in the politics of Germany’s weapons than Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Andrij Melnyk. Melnyk, who was Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin until last year, became a household name in Germany by nudging, cajoling and, at times, loudly demanding that Berlin send weapons. Initially dismissed by Germany’s many Russophile intellectuals and anti-war elements on both the right and left as “undiplomatic,” Melnyk’s was ultimately vindicated. We caught up with him on Tuesday by phone in Kyiv, where he returned in October. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

After nearly a year of trying to convince the Germans to send tanks, how did it feel when Berlin finally relented and how did you celebrate?

There was relief and happiness that we finally overcame the hurdles of the past months. It was a difficult birth. We indulged ourselves with a few beers after not really drinking since the war began.

Within a few hours of the tank announcement, you came out calling on the Western allies to take a further step and commit to sending fighter jets. You’ve also pushed for submarines and warships. Why the rush?

A lot of people still don’t understand that the war is far from over. In fact, Putin appears to have even more of an appetite than ever. Without air support, you can’t fight a modern war. We need more planes both to help liberate our territory and to mount a counteroffensive. We need everything that our partners can deliver. We’re not doing this for amusement.

Don’t you worry though that you could spark resistance in the West with the repeated demands?

It’s worth starting the debate even if you know that you’re not going to achieve your goals tomorrow and you end up being subjected to mockery and ridicule. In Germany, I learned that it was helpful to take people out of their comfort zone. Much of the population had no idea what weapons system the army even had in its arsenal. We helped to educate them.

Many in the West worry that if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, he’ll keep pushing farther west. As someone much closer to the front lines, what do you most worry about?

Russia could try something big to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion. I worry that they might launch a new offensive from Belarus. I don’t think the Russians are going to give up. Putin is not an enemy one should underestimate.

GERMANY’S DIFFICULT MISSION IN SOUTH AMERICA: German Chancellor Scholz returned this morning from a five-day South America trip which, among other things, was aimed at rallying countries of the Global South behind the West’s support for Ukraine. But the visit to Brazil went awry, underlining how challenging it is to build a united global front against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his propaganda.

“If one doesn’t want to, two can’t fight”: That’s the key quote by Brazil’s new President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who implied at a joint press conference with Scholz that Ukraine was also responsible for Russia’s invasion. “I think the reason for the war between Russia and Ukraine also needs to be clearer. Is it because of NATO? Is it because of territorial claims? Is it because of entry into Europe? The world has little information about that,” Lula added. More here.

Pushing Mercosur deal: During his visits to Brazil and Argentina, Scholz also urged a swift ratification of the long-delayed trade and political cooperation deal between the EU and the Mercosur trading bloc of South American countries. However, both Lula and Argentinian President Alberto Fernández told him that while the EU is keen to reinforce the environmental protection clauses of the deal, they want to reopen the (in principle already finalized) agreement to negotiate better trade-offs for their economies.

CANBERRA WARMS UP TO EUROPE:Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was on a whirlwind visit to Brussels on Tuesday, a half-day trip between Paris and London.

Appearing at an event hosted by POLITICO Europe and a Brussels university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Wong said Southeast Asia was — like many parts of the Global South — affected by Russian disinformation over its war against Ukraine.

Speaking up to China: Wong also expressed concern about Taiwan when asked about the security situation in the Indo-Pacific, calling on smaller countries to speak up.

“I think it is very important that the non great powers don’t simply act as if we are bystanders,” Wong told our colleague Stuart Lau. “We have an obligation or responsibility, this generation of leaders, to do all we can to ensure that this competition does not escalate to conflict over Taiwan, or in any other context, because we also know that such a conflict will be catastrophic for humanity.”


Richard Parr is stepping back from his role as managing director of Good Food Institute Europe to become strategic adviser and board member.

FleishmanHillard announces promotions: Anna Davreux to partner; Thibault Jacobs-Boutherin to senior vice president and director; and Simon Terwagne to senior vice president and senior adviser.

British Chambers of Commerce Director General Shevaun Haviland is joining the board of the International Chamber of Commerce United Kingdom.

HUNGARY WANTS UKRAINE TO GIVE UP: Just as Western allies give Ukraine tanks, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is going in the opposite direction, arguing Russia will prevail, reports POLITICO’s Lili Bayer from Budapest. 

LIZ TRUSS IS BACK: The former British prime minister, ousted from office after a disastrous rollout of her tax-cut plan, has found new allies in American conservatives, reports POLITICO’s Alexander Burns.

‘HANDS OFF AFRICA,’ POPE FRANCIS TELLS RICH WORLD: Pope Francis denounced the “poison of greed” driving conflicts in Africa as he began a visit to Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, saying the rich world had to realize that people are more precious than the minerals in the earth beneath them. More from Reuters.

Thanks to editor Sanya Khetani-Shah and producer Hannah Farrow

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