BAt the G-7 summit in Japan, US President Joe Biden surprisingly cleared the way for training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. What about the Chancellor’s fears that this could lead to an escalation with Russia? Olaf Scholz (SPD) asked these and other questions on the TV show WELT TALK. This is a text version of the conversation in Hiroshima.
WELT: Mr. Chancellor, US President Joe Biden has given his categorical no to the delivery of F-16 fighter jets surprisingly given up to the Ukraine and promised to train Ukrainian pilots on such aircraft. They had long shared Biden’s previous concerns because they feared an escalation with Russia. Do you still have this concern now?
Olaf Scholz: It is now about a decision on the training of pilots that the American President made. First of all, this is a signal to the Russian President that he should not hope that he can achieve his goal simply by waging a war that lasts as long as possible. Allies are ready to provide long-term support to Ukraine.
The clear demand is: Russia must end the war and withdraw troops. The priority is that we support Ukraine in defending itself. Germany is now Ukraine’s second-largest supporter – in financial and humanitarian terms, but also in terms of arms deliveries. We have just announced another package worth €2.7 billion in terms of deliveries this year and next.
WELT: You just said that this pilot training is a signal to Moscow. The signal seems to have gotten through: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko has stated that a possible delivery of F-16 jets could entail “colossal risks”. How seriously do you take such threats?
Scholz: Such threats have been made before. The important thing is that we only act in concert with each other, there are no national solo efforts, and we ensure that there is no escalation that leads to a war between Russia and NATO. And it is precisely this course that we are following – while at the same time supporting Ukraine in its defense to the best of our ability. Because one thing must not be forgotten: Russia is trying to incorporate a large part of Ukraine by force of arms. It can’t get away with that. It violates the international peace order and endangers peace and security in the world.
WELT: Could you imagine training Ukrainian pilots in Germany as well? France, for example, has announced something similar for itself, although it does not have F-16s.
Scholz: First of all, it is now the turn of those who have such systems. Germany has no F-16 jets and focuses primarily on air defense, armored vehicles and heavy artillery.
WELT: Ukraine accepts that now, as long as the war continues, it cannot become a NATO member. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelenskyj is demanding post-war membership as a security guarantee. Do you think NATO will send this signal to Ukraine at its July summit in Vilnius? For example with a roadmap?
Scholz: Now it’s about supporting Ukraine, defending their country. For the future, we will also have to talk about security guarantees, that’s for sure. These security guarantees include the question of how heavily we will arm Ukraine in the future. After the war, Ukraine will be armed with western-made weapons.
It is also clear that we will then have to discuss which security guarantees can be given in a post-war situation. But we’re not there yet. Now let’s focus on what’s coming up.
WELT: Would you theoretically support NATO membership for Ukraine after the end of the war?
Scholz: In Bucharest in 2008, NATO made decisions that formulated a long-term perspective. It is clear to everyone that this will not happen in the foreseeable future. Also because the NATO criteria include a whole series of conditions that Ukraine is currently unable to meet.
WELT: The other big issue at this G-7 summit was China. The final declaration warns against “militarization activities in the Asia-Pacific region”. How big do you think the danger of a Chinese attack on Taiwan is now?
Scholz: We have dealt with many questions. These include, in particular, very intensive talks with countries in Africa, South America and many Asian countries in order to create a multipolar world in which we act on an equal footing.
In this context, of course, China also plays a role, because it is quite clear that it will continue to grow economically, which one can only wish for the citizens of the country, because many of them still live in very difficult economic circumstances. It is also true that this should not endanger the security of the region. We have been very precise about this.
WELT: How big is the danger for Taiwan?
Scholz: The West is pursuing a one-China policy. This is also how Taiwan and communist China see it. This includes that no borders may be moved by force of arms and no status quo may be changed. We insist.
WELT: In the circle of the G 7 there are simulation games for a Chinese attack on Taiwan. The United States, for example, has already pledged binding military aid in this case. Can a third world war develop from this?
Scholz: The point is that none of this happens. That’s why we’re very clear in our statements. But we must always insist that our world can only be peaceful if conflicts are not resolved by force of arms. This is a very good result of this meeting.
WELT: The final declaration contains many reminders to China, for example on the subject of Taiwan, but also on human rights and world trade. At the same time, great respect for China’s greatness and good wishes for economic development are expressed. Do you think such sugar-coated criticism really has an impact on Beijing’s behavior?
Scholz: The world we live in will change. There will soon be many countries that will gain economic importance. Before the era of industrialization, India and China accounted for 20 to 30 percent of the world’s gross national product. In that regard, the world is getting back to normal. There will be significant countries in the South of America, in Africa and in Asia. It is important that they are all embedded in a multipolar order that relies on cooperation and not military escalation.
WELT: This appeal in the final declaration was not well received in Beijing. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said the G7 was discrediting and attacking China. Will this result in a drop in temperature in Chinese relations with the West?
Scholz: I don’t see that.
WELT: How do you deal with such criticism?
Scholz: I think the most important thing in the relationships of the world is not to be pedantic and to describe things bluntly as they are. We did that as the G 7 in Japan. It is not about excluding China from global economic relations. Almost all G-7 countries are represented with large investments in China. It is about creating a peaceful world order.
WELT: You spent a lot of time with President Biden at this summit. There is a big debate in the US about whether he might be too old to stand for a second term. What do you think? How did you experience him?
Scholz: I have spoken extensively with the US President here and on previous occasions. This is a man who has very clear ideas and who knows exactly what is going on in the world and in his country. This clear judgment also carries his presidency.
WELT: You will be accompanied on this trip by your wife Britta Ernst for the first time in your office as Federal Chancellor. What does that mean to you personally?
Scholz: It’s great for both of us because it allows us to spend more time together. Last year in Elmau we were both hosts, which was a bit more stressful. This time we are invited together as guests – we are both happy about that.
“Kick-off Politics” is WELT’s daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.