New German foreign minister Baerbock signals tougher stance on Russia

Green politician says troop build-up near Ukraine threatens Europe's security

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a press briefing with the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Brussels. AP
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Germany's new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has put her critical stance towards Moscow on display, describing the Russian troop build-up near Ukraine as a threat to all of Europe's security.

Ms Baerbock, a co-leader of Germany's Green party, held talks with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg on her first full day in office on Thursday, and told the Kremlin it would pay a high price if it invades Ukraine.

She separately told foreign ministry staff that Berlin needed to rethink its attitude towards countries such as Russia and China that seek to “gain advantages in ways we don't find acceptable".

Ms Baerbock visited Paris and Brussels on Thursday, in a symbol of Germany's steadfast alliances with France, the EU and Nato.

“Nato remains an indispensable pillar of security in Europe,” she told reporters after meeting Mr Stoltenberg at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

“The Russian troop development near Ukraine must concern us, with a view to Ukraine itself but also with a view to our security in Europe,” she said.

She called on Russia to hold talks with Nato, an offer which Mr Stoltenberg said had been made to Moscow but not accepted.

Speaking earlier in Paris, Ms Baerbock said Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty were not negotiable for the new government in Berlin.

“Russia would pay a high political, and especially economic, price for any renewed attack on Ukrainian statehood,” she said at a press conference with French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Ms Baerbock stressed continuity in Germany's traditional alliances with the US, France and the EU, but called for a greater emphasis on climate change and a more critical stance towards Moscow and Beijing.

While the previous government also criticised Russia over Ukraine and other issues, it was sometimes accused of an overly commerce-driven stance, and was criticised by Ms Baerbock for approving the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

“We need to think more about how we get to grips with this reasoning of competition and antagonism,” she said of countries such as China and Russia.

Mr Stoltenberg said Germany’s support was more important than ever given the potential threat from Russia.

He said he agreed with Ms Baerbock that climate change could have implications for security policy. “This is a defining challenge of our time, and Nato is determined to adapt and mitigate the effects of global warming,” he said.

In talks with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, she discussed the potential for more integration within the bloc. “The future of my country is forever embedded in the common European destiny,” she said.

She hopes to use Germany’s presidency of the G7 in 2022 to push for more international climate co-operation, a priority of the new government.

Ms Baerbock is Germany's first female foreign minister and the second from the Green party, which has joined the government for the first time in 16 years.

The coalition between the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats took office on Wednesday, led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Updated: December 09, 2021, 5:10 PM