US President Joe Biden praised G7 summit host Olaf Scholz for his handling of the war in Ukraine, coming to the defence of a German chancellor criticised by many for a cautious response to Russia's invasion.
At bilateral talks before the main summit began at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Mr Biden said Mr Scholz had done “an incredible job” in managing the recriminations and called the German government “one of our fastest and closest allies in the world”.
Hailing western unity in response to Russia's aggression, Mr Biden put his hand on Mr Scholz's arm and said: “That was in no small part because of you.”
Mr Biden offered further praise of Mr Scholz by welcoming his decision to increase spending on arms with a special €100-billion ($105bn) pot to upgrade Germany's military.
The leaders also discussed “challenges posed by China” and Washington's push for global infrastructure investment to fend off similar overtures by Beijing, the White House said.
Mr Scholz, who is chairman for the three-day talks, told Mr Biden that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not expected western powers to unite in their response to the war.
“We stay united, we stay together. This is our clear message to President Putin,” he said.
Germany said the summit should result in increased pressure on Russia and a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Critics of Mr Scholz's government, including some MPs in his coalition, have accused him of moving too slowly to send weapons to Ukraine, and said the chancellor showed too little leadership.
A frosty atmosphere between Berlin and Kyiv came to a head in a diplomatic spat over a cancelled visit by Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, although the two countries later sought to put the dispute behind them.
G7 allies have generally not criticised Germany. Mr Scholz received political cover from Washington in February, when Mr Biden said Berlin was an “incredibly reliable ally” despite prevaricating over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.