Putin’s nuclear tsunami branded as 'brainless thinking'
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Mr Scholz claimed “many in the Kremlin have not yet grasped” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “devastating consequences” for Moscow. He also painted a bleak picture of Europe’s security, saying the continent was living “in a state of emergency” in which decisions were “literally a matter of life and death”.
The Chancellor said of Russia’s potential launch of a nuclear attack: “In view of this war, everything should be taken seriously.” Berlin’s task now, he said, was “to prevent such weapons from being used”.
Mr Scholz, amid promises the sanctions imposed on Russia will not be lifted until a peace agreement is reached, said the West “should have no illusions about Putin”.
He said: “Internationally, we are currently in a dangerous, even dramatic situation.”
Reflecting on the over two months of military conflict, he advised nations not to “act hastily in the hope that it won’t be so bad”, as he reminded them Europe is currently living “in an exceptional situation”.
Speaking days after Germany announced its first delivery of heavy arms to Ukraine, he said: “Many are afraid that the war will spread to the countries of the EU.
“We must not talk over people’s heads and past their hearts.”
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The Chancellor also made it clear for the first time that the duration of Western sanctions on Moscow was in the hands of Kyiv.
He said: “We will only be able and willing to withdraw our sanctions in agreement with Ukraine.”
Stressing that Ukraine and “no one else” would negotiate peace and its conditions with Russia, he added: “It must not be that others decide for Ukraine or about Ukraine.
“The real problem is that we are still far away from it [a ceasefire].”
Speaking to German publication Stern, Mr Scholz praised Ukraine’s resistance as he added: “It is defending itself with great bravery and a great deal of cleverness.
“The performance of the Ukrainian military leadership is impressive and great.”
And he said that President Volodymyr Zelensky is “doing it very well”.
He has a very different opinion about President Putin, though.
He told Germany’s ZDF public television the Russian president had miscalculated if he had expected he might be able to gain territory from Ukraine, declare an end to hostilities, and see sanctions being dropped.
The Chancellor said: “He didn’t think his entire Ukraine operation through.
“He didn’t think Ukraine would resist like that. He didn’t think we would support them to hold out for so long.
“We won’t withdraw the sanctions unless he reaches an agreement with Ukraine, and he won’t get that with a dictated peace.”
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Mr Scholz, who has been under national and international pressure to supply Ukraine with heavy arms such as tanks and howitzers, rejected criticism that he was at first too hesitant to meet Mr Zelensky’s requests.
Emphasising that protecting the country and keeping peace was his duty as holder of Germany’s top job, he added: “There’s no point in doing something just because someone is shouting or not doing something because someone is shouting.”
Last week, an overwhelming vote in favour of providing Ukraine with “heavy weapons and complex [weapon] systems” meant Kyiv is finally getting what it had been requesting for weeks – Gepard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.
The passing of the petition — with 586 votes in favour, 100 against, and seven abstentions — represents a historic and widely welcomed shift in policy for Europe’s top economy.
The measure passed by German MPs also includes the deployment of more soldiers to boost NATO presence in Eastern Europe.
Further, Berlin will encourage Russian forces to lay down their arms and seek asylum in Germany and the European Union.
Mr Scholz’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the climate-friendly Greens and the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP) formed a three-way power-sharing alliance in December 2021.
When sworn in, the traffic-light coalition had plans to tackle the country’s unprecedented energy turnaround, reduce the volume of arms exports and raise Germany’s minimum wage.
After February 24, the Bundestag’s priorities got turned upside down, and reducing the nation’s heavy reliance on imported Russian energy hiked up high on the list.
Germany, which is Russia’s biggest energy customer, claimed on Monday it was prepared to back an immediate EU embargo on Russian oil, with Economy Minister Robert Habeck saying:
“We have managed to reach a situation where Germany is able to bear an oil embargo.”
After the announcement, the EU said it was preparing sanctions on Russian oil sales that could deprive Moscow of a large revenue stream within days.
The European Commission is expected to propose a sixth package of bloc-wide sanctions this week – including a possible embargo on buying oil from the invading country.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg
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