The United States and Germany will reject all Russian territorial claims in Ukraine, leaders from both countries said during a recent phone call, as relations between Berlin and Kiev plumb new depths over alleged close ties between the German president and his Russian counterpart.
A statement issued by the German government following Thursday’s call noted that Biden and Scholz “stressed that they will not recognize any steps that are contrary to the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine,” agreeing “they have no legitimacy.”
“They condemned in the strongest possible terms recent statements by the Russian leadership to discredit the democratically legitimate Ukrainian government,” the statement continued.
The comments on Ukraine’s sovereignty mirror a position recently staked out by British officials, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss saying sanctions on Moscow will not be removed until its forces withdraw from all Ukrainian territory – including Crimea, which has been under Russian control since 2014.
The hardline Western policy against recognizing any territorial concessions could obstruct a negotiated settlement between Moscow and Kiev, as the Kremlin insists that Ukraine accepts its claims over Crimea, as well as the independence of two Russian-speaking breakaway states in the Donbass region.
The Turkish foreign minister, who has helped to mediate negotiations between the warring parties, recently warned that some NATO members prefer to see the fighting continue in order to weaken Russia, regardless of what that means for Ukraine. A report in the Washington Post last month similarly noted that some in the alliance believe “it’s better for the Ukrainians to keep fighting, and dying, than to achieve a peace that comes too early or at too high a cost,” citing a number of diplomats and officials.
Scholz himself also stated in an interview earlier this week that Berlin would not ease its own sanctions on Moscow without “agreement with Ukraine,” suggesting the penalties could continue indefinitely despite repeatedly claiming Germany’s sole aim is to “save lives” and “end the war.”
The White House press release on Thursday’s call said Biden praised Scholz for sending security aid to Kiev, while a German government spokesperson indicated the supply of weapons would continue. “They agreed that Ukraine needed to be further substantially and continuously supported in the practice of its legitimate right to self-defense,” the official said.
Both leaders also reaffirmed their “commitment to continue holding Russia accountable for its brutal actions,” the US readout added, following allegations of Russian “war crimes” from Biden.
Neither the German official nor the White House mentioned any Western diplomatic efforts to facilitate an end to the conflict, however, instead focusing on additional lethal aid to the Ukrainian military and ways to further isolate the Russian government.
The relationship between Kiev and Berlin has been on shaky ground in recent weeks, after Ukraine abruptly canceled a planned visit by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in April over his alleged “close ties” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an effort to smooth things over, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has invited both Scholz and Steinmeier to Kiev, while German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will also soon visit the country as a result of the discussions.