May 25, 2022

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Schultz flies to Moscow to try to avoid war

Schultz flies to Moscow to try to avoid war

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz makes a statement before a meeting with the leaders of the three Baltic states, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 10, 2022. Christoph Gato/Collect via Reuters/File Photo

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  • The trip comes after visiting Ukraine on Monday
  • Shultz said in Kiev that he was ready to impose far-reaching sanctions
  • Focus on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Schulz heads to Moscow on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin on a high-risk mission to avert war, warning Russia’s largest trading partner in Europe of far-reaching sanctions if it attacks Ukraine.

Schulz’s one-day trip, after visiting Kiev on Monday, is part of the frantic Western diplomacy to try to stop a potential attack with more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. Read more

The chancellor said he would deliver a message from the West that they were open to dialogue about Russia’s security concerns, but would impose sanctions if it invaded Ukraine.

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“We are ready to impose far-reaching and effective sanctions in coordination with our allies,” he said in Kiev on Monday before returning to Berlin.

Warnings of sanctions could be stronger from Germany, Russia’s number one trading partner in Europe and largest consumer of Russian natural gas – although that could also limit Schulz’s room to maneuver.

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He noted last month that “everything should be discussed in the event of a military intervention” when asked about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, which aims to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe, bypassing Ukraine, the traditional transit country. Read more

But he has not pledged to end Nord Stream 2 or even name it in connection with the sanctions, unlike US President Joe Biden who said last Monday that the pipeline would stop if Russia invaded. Read more

Russia denies planning the invasion, accusing the West, which sent a wave of officials to Moscow and Kiev, of hysteria.

Coalition disagreements

Schultz, who took office in December, has faced criticism for his lack of visibility during the crisis, unlike Angela Merkel’s leadership during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the lead in Europe, visiting Moscow a week ago and calling Putin regularly. .

Merkel and Putin were able to speak each other’s languages. She became his main interlocutor in Europe during his 16 years in power. This will be Schultz’s first meeting with Putin as an advisor, although he has met him in previous high positions.

“Merkel had this special relationship with Putin – I think he respected it – and they had a long time building their relationship,” said Jana Puglierin, director of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “For Schulze, it will be more complicated.”

Schulz’s government has been accused of giving mixed signals about the crisis, with disagreements between the three constituent parties of the coalition as well as within the ruling Social Democrats.

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And the small coalition Green Party, which holds the foreign ministry, wants to dispense with Nord Stream 2. Former SPD adviser Gerhard Schroeder, who took a position at Russian energy giant Gazprom after leaving his post in 2005, continues to push for it.

Puglierin said the SPD’s traditional desire for close engagement with Russia could be an advantage in talks with Putin. “But Schultz cannot afford to be the weakest link in the Western alliance,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday suggested to Putin that Moscow continue down the diplomatic track in its efforts to extract security guarantees from the West. Read more

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(Reporting by Sarah Marsh) Editing by Alison Williams

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