President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are heaping praise on one another for their united efforts to support Ukraine in fending off Russian invaders, despite a diplomatic dustup between the two countries this week over sending Kyiv tanks.
Mr. Schulz and Mr. Biden, who huddled at the White House on Friday, have largely agreed about Ukraine policy, though the alliance hit some rough patches over the past year. Still, they presented a united front for the cameras.
“You stepped up to provide critical military support. And I would argue, beyond the military support, the moral support you’ve given Ukrainians has been profound. Profound,” Mr. Biden said. “I know it’s not been easy — very difficult for you.”
Mr. Scholz emphasized the importance of working together to help Ukraine and said the partnership between Washington and Berlin is “really in a very good shape today.”
“At this time I think it’s very important that we give the message that we will continue to do so as long as it takes and as long as it is necessary,” he said. “I really appreciate the very good cooperation of our governments.”
A test of that friendship occurred just a few weeks ago when Washington and European allies pressured Germany to deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Mr. Scholz only agreed to do so when Mr. Biden also pledged to send some Abrams tanks, which are the most advanced battle tanks in the world.
The president bucked the advice of defense officials who warned the vehicles would be difficult to operate in Ukraine.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan suggested in a television interview this week that Mr. Biden only sent the Abrams tanks to Ukraine to placate the Germans. That contradicted Berlin’s depiction of the plan as a joint agreement between the two nations.
“In the interest of alliance unity, and to ensure that Ukraine got what it wanted, despite the fact that the Abrams aren’t the tool they need, the president said, ‘OK, I’m going to be the leader of the free world. I will send Abrams down the road if you send Leopards now,’” Mr. Sullivan said. “And this is actually an example of Joe Biden rallying the global coalition to get Ukraine what it needs.”
Steffen Hebestreit, a spokesperson for Mr. Scholz, rejected the idea that Germany forced Mr. Biden into doing something he didn’t want to do.
“I have a hard time imagining a German chancellor dictating terms or making any demands of an American president,” Mr. Hebestreit said.
At the White House meeting Friday, a top issue was the possibility China will provide arms to Russia. Mr. Scholz has urged China not to send weapons to Moscow and asked Beijing to pressure Russia to pull back its forces.
The U.S. is discussing with allies whether to jointly impose sanctions on Beijing if it supplies weapons to Russia, which could put Mr. Scholz in an awkward position. China is one of Germany’s largest trading partners.
The two countries traded goods worth roughly $320 billion last year, up 21% from 2021, according to data from the German government.
China also is the top trading partner for the U.S. Last year, trade between China and the U.S. hit a record high of $690 billion, with U.S. imports from China accounting for $536 billion.
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