Scholz says Russia nuclear threat ‘reduced by international pressure’

The risk of nuclear weapons being used in the Ukraine conflict has lessened thanks to international pressure on Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published Thursday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) arrives at the West Balkans Summit in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“One thing has changed for the time being: Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. In response to the international community marking a red line,” Scholz said in the interview with Germany’s Funke media group.

Asked whether the threat of a nuclear escalation had been averted, Scholz replied: “For the time being, we have put a stop to it.”

The German leader lauded his recent visit to China as having contributed to the development.

“During my visit to Beijing, Chinese President Xi (Jinping) and I jointly expressed that nuclear weapons must not be used. Shortly afterwards, the G20 countries reaffirmed this position,” he said.

READ ALSO: Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for ‘diplomatic’ end to war

Scholz was also asked about controversial comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that it would be necessary to provide “guarantees for its own security to Russia, the day it returns to the table” of negotiations.

“The priority now is for Russia to end the war immediately and withdraw its troops,” he said.

“It is true that the question is then how we can achieve security for Europe. Of course we are ready to talk with Russia about arms control in Europe. We offered this before the war, and this position has not changed.”

Putin’s own menacing language, and the military stalemate, have raised fears Russia could resort to its nuclear arsenal to achieve a military breakthrough.

But speaking at a meeting of his human rights council on Wednesday, Putin suggested that Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to such an attack.

“When we are struck, we strike back,” he said, stressing that his country’s strategy was based on “so called retaliatory strike” policy.

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German economy minister makes unexpected visit to Ukraine

German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck unexpectedly arrived in Kyiv on Thursday to discuss post-war reconstruction and show support after Russian attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure.

German economy minister makes unexpected visit to Ukraine

“This visit comes at a time when Ukraine needs all the support it can get in its fight for freedom,” Habeck told reporters in the Ukrainian capital.

“And it is a fight for freedom, that’s the important thing that the world, Europe and Germany mustn’t forget,” he said, adding that Ukraine was “fighting for the values that define Europe”.

The trip comes after Germany at the weekend announced it was sending an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine after pleas from Kyiv for its Western backer to urgently help foil Russian attacks.

Ukraine has said it is running out of weaponry to shoot down Russian missiles and drones as Moscow ramps up attacks on energy infrastructure.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday urged fellow EU leaders to urgently follow Berlin’s lead and send more air defence systems to Ukraine.

Habeck, who was accompanied by a business delegation on the trip, will hold talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He will also meet with Ukrainian officials to discuss emergency aid and business ties as well as preparations for the annual Ukraine Recovery Conference to be held in Berlin in June, the German economy ministry said in a statement.

“Comprehensive support for Ukraine also includes support for a resilient energy supply and reconstruction. Private sector investment is crucial for this to succeed,” Habeck was quoted as saying in the statement.

The World Bank has estimated the total cost of reconstruction facing Ukraine more than two years since the start of the war is at least $486 billion.

OPINION: Germany’s timid strategy risks both Ukraine’s defeat and more war in Europe