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UKRAINE

Germany’s Merkel calls Russian invasion ‘turning point’ for Europe

German former chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conciliatory policies toward the Kremlin while in office have come under fire, on Friday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Angela Merkel
A screenshot from a new documentary about Angela Merkel. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ARTE | --

Merkel, who left politics in December after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s top economy, said she was watching the “attack on the territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Ukraine “with great concern and sympathy”.

“Russia’s war of aggression marks a profound turning point in European history after the end of the Cold War,” she said in a statement.

Merkel said there was “no justification” for this “blatant violation of international law” which she “condemned in the strongest terms”.

She offered her “solidarity” to the people and government of Ukraine and her “full support” to her successor, Olaf Scholz, in his efforts with Western partners to “stop President (Vladimir) Putin as quickly as possible”.

Merkel’s decision to maintain close diplomatic and economic ties with Russia despite years of provocations has been criticised as “naive” in recent days as Putin has laid bare his intentions in Ukraine.

Scholz this week announced plans to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to bring Russian natural gas to Germany as a sanction against Moscow.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Germany has scuppered Nord Stream 2 but there are questions left to answer

Merkel had long championed the project as crucial to Germany’s energy strategy as it phases out nuclear power and coal and gradually builds up its supply from renewables.

Her own predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has worked since leaving office in 2005 as a lobbyist for the Russian energy sector — a target of fierce criticism in Berlin.

He criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as unjustified but called for maintaining “political, economic and civil society ties” with Moscow.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Ukraine crisis could impact Germany

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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