At times during their short but eventful alliance, Mr. Biden has appeared keen to let Mr. Scholz and other Western leaders take a public lead on decisions related to penalizing Russia or aiding Ukraine, a strategy designed to bolster the idea that Europe is acting in concert with — instead of at the direction of — the United States.
At other times, neither leader hath wanted to make the first move. In January, Mr. Biden and Mr. Scholz announced that they would supply battle tanks to Ukraine, ending weeks of you-go-first tension with Germany, which had delayed an agreement to send its Leopard 2 tanks unless Washington agreed to the powerful M1 Abrams model.
“These tanks are further evidence of our enduring, unflagging commitment to Ukraine and our confidence in the skill of Ukrainian forces,” Mr. Biden said during that announcement. The president has denied that he was pressured by one of his closest allies to provide the tanks, though Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, suggested in a recent interview that the president had made the move to encourage the Germans to release the Leopards.
For his part, Mr. Scholz has emphasized the need for the United States and Germany to work closely together.
“We’re talking about very effective weapons systems here, and it’s proper that we never provide those weapons systems alone, but always in close cooperation,” Mr. Scholz told lawmakers in Parliament in January.
But it will take months for some 30 Abrams tanks to be built, and Germany has struggled to fulfill its promise to send some 62 of the vehicles to Ukraine. While Mr. Biden continues to try and rally support for assisting Ukraine amid grousing from Republicans, Mr. Scholtz is facing his own domestic obstacles as he works to deliver on a promise for the tanks amid antiwar protests in Berlin.
“I think that most of the Germans are on his side, but they balk at F-16s, and they balk at things where they think the red lines are going to be crossed with Putin,” Mr. Janes said. “He’s got to overcome those hurdles, so he’ll go back and be able to do that by having met one-on-one, right across the table from Biden. Then he can say with authority, ‘We’ve got backup here.’”
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