A Ukrainian service member is seen at a position on the front line near the town of New York (Novhorodske) in Donetsk region, Ukraine December 17, 2021.
Oleksandr Klymenko | Reuters
Amid accusations that Berlin is not doing enough to cool tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and that it’s compromised by its gas pipeline project with Moscow, Germany’s new chancellor has said that “staying silent is not a sensible option” after years of tension on Europe’s doorstep.
For a number of months now, the international community has voiced concerns that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine, having amassed a reported 100,000 troops at the border. Russia denies it has any such plans but has demanded that the military alliance NATO does not expand eastward or allow Ukraine to become a member.
“After years of rising tensions, staying silent is not a sensible option,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a speech via videoconference at The Davos Agenda virtual event on Wednesday, adding that in Europe “borders must not be moved by force.”
Tensions have been high between Russia and its neighbor Ukraine for a number of years, with relations hitting a low point after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and supported a pro-Russian uprising in the east of the country.
Reflecting on intensive talks between U.S., European and NATO officials with Russia over recent weeks, Scholz said “it is still too early to tell whether they will help deescalate the situation Russia created by concentrating 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sits in front of a camera as he delivers his speech for the Davos Agenda 2022, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany January 19, 2022.
Markus Schreiber | Reuters
Germany’s perspective in talks, Scholz added, was to emphasize “our commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and about a key principle of our common European peace order, that borders must not be moved by force, that right makes might and not the other way around.”
The Russian side is “aware of our determination” he said, adding: “I hope they realize the gains of cooperation outweigh the price of further confrontation.”
Germany, alongside France, has tried to broker peace agreements between Russia and Ukraine for several years but the pacts, known as the “Minsk agreements” have been poorly adhered to with both Russia and Ukraine accusing each other of flouting the accords.
With the recent completion of a giant gas pipeline (Nord Stream 2) between Russia and Germany, however, Berlin has been accused of being compromised by the project, which it has not yet authorized to be used, and of undermining Europe’s negotiating position vis-à-vis Russia as a result.
During a visit by Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Annalena Baerbock to Moscow on Tuesday, she said that there is “no understandable reason” for the Russian military buildup close to Ukraine, adding that it is “hard” not to see this move as a “threat.”
Ukrainian officials have complained about Germany’s reluctance on sending defensive weapons to help out Kyiv, like the British have done in the last week.
The lingering question for many watchers of Ukraine and Russia tensions remains: How far are Germany, Europe, the U.S. and NATO willing to go to defend Ukraine?
— Don’t miss Geoff Cutmore’s discussion with ECB President Christine Lagarde, Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, IMF MD Kristalina Georgieva and India’s Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati at 7.30 a.m. ET Friday. They’ll be discussing the “Global Economic Outlook” at the Davos Agenda. You can watch live here.
— CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed reporting to this story.