Scholz: Germany stands beside its Baltic allies
Germany stands by its Baltic allies, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during a meeting with high-ranking politicians from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Thursday in Berlin.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda and Latvia's Prime Minister Krišjans Kariš, Scholz said Germany takes the Baltics concerns about Russia very seriously.
He said the Baltics are directly affected by Russia's military actions on the Ukrainian and Belarusian borders and he is happy to discuss the problems directly with his counterparts.
Scholz also emphasized NATO was ready to hold talks with Moscow and that the alliance's unity should not be underestimated by Russia.
"Currently, the only thing at stake in Europe is to avoid war. We want peace," Scholz said, calling on Russia to ease tensions around Ukraine.
He said Russia can expect economic and political sanctions if the conflict in Ukraine escalates.
"We want to make it very clear that if Russia continues to engage in aggression, it will have clear political, economic and strategic consequences. What we are currently expecting from Russia is clear steps to de-escalate and reduce its presence and tensions in the region," Scholz said.
Kallas said the West must not make concessions to Russia while being held at gunpoint, adding NATO should do more to strengthen its eastern wing.
Karinš said NATO should strengthen its eastern wing in the near future and Germany also plays an important role in doing so.
"It is very important that Germany is not only present in the Baltic states, but also takes a leading role in bringing the European Union and NATO through these difficult times," said Karinš.
The press conference can be watched below.
Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops and military equipment on the borders around Ukraine and moved an estimated 30,000 troops into Belarus. Some experts fear a further invasion of Ukraine is likely in the coming months.
Russia is calling for NATO to remove troops from its eastern flank. There are battlegroups of approximately 1,100 troops in each Baltic state and Poland.
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Editor: Helen Wright