The latest on Ukraine and Russia tensions

By Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 0402 GMT (1202 HKT) February 8, 2022
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8:05 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

German chancellor won't explicitly say Nord Stream 2 pipeline would stop in event of Russian invasion

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (CNN)

When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview why Germany won’t say explicitly if the Nord Stream 2 pipeline won’t happen if Russian invades, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz would only vow that Germany would act together with its allies, especially the United States, and “take the same steps," but he did not outright say that Germany would stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Scholz said, “As the President said, we are preparing for that and you can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will be together [with] all its allies, and especially the United States; that we will take the same steps. There will be no differences in that situation.”

He went on to saying the message to Russia is that “if you invade Ukraine, this will have a very high price for you, which will have a high impact on your economy and the chance for development.”

“And we are ready to take steps that will have costs for us, on the one hand," said Scholz, adding they were simultaneously trying to act on the diplomatic front to ease pressures and prevent conflict.

7:08 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

German chancellor: NATO response will be unified if Russia invades Ukraine despite disconnect on gas pipeline

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz insisted to CNN that the United States and Germany are on the same page when it comes to Russia and Ukraine, even as he refused to discuss the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

Scholz declined to address the pipeline in an exclusive interview Monday with CNN's Jake Tapper, but said that NATO's response to a potential Russian invasion would be unified.

"All the steps we will take we will do together," Scholz said when asked by Tapper why he wouldn't address the pipeline. "As the President said, we are preparing for that. You can understand and you can be absolutely sure that Germany will be together with all its allies and especially the United States, that we take the same steps. There will be no differences in that situation," he said.

Despite Scholz's assurances, the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline set to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany cast a shadow over the German leader's visit to the White House on Monday. At a joint news conference, President Biden was explicit in saying that the pipeline would be stopped in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"The notion Nord Stream 2 would go forward with an invasion by the Russians is just not going to happen," Biden said.

Scholz, however, did not specifically address the pipeline at the news conference, beyond saying that the two countries and NATO were on the same page when it came to sanctions and responding to Russia's aggression.

On Monday, a meeting between German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was canceled, the official reason being a scheduling error.

A source close to the Ukrainian government, however, told Tapper that the meeting did not take place because the German foreign minister refused to say whether Germany would abandon the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline if Russia invades, and that Germany has not provided military assistance to Ukraine.

Scholz said the idea that Germany was more aligned with Russia than the West was "nonsense," arguing in Monday's interview that Germany has been an important financial partner to Kyiv.

"We are the biggest donator, together with the United States, to Ukraine," Scholz said. "It's more than $2 billion we've spent since 2014."

Scholz also addressed the prospect of renegotiating the Iranian nuclear deal, which Germany played a role in when the agreement was first reached in 2015.

"This is now the time for Iran to make a decision," Scholz told Tapper. "There is no time for prolonging the debates and things like that which happened in the past." 

7:26 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Sen. Chris Murphy criticizes German Chancellor Scholz's dodge on Nord Stream 2 pipeline

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a joint news conference with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on February 7 in Washington, DC.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a joint news conference with President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House on February 7 in Washington, DC. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s indirect answer on whether the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be shut down if Russia invades Ukraine.

“I would much prefer the Germans say publicly what they’ve said privately,” Murphy told CNN. 

Pressed on whether he had knowledge of Germany making this kind of commitment privately, Murphy said he was referencing President Biden’s answer during a joint news conference with Scholz: “I take the administration at their word when they say Nord Stream 2 is not going forward if the Russians invade."

Murphy added, “But, you know, I don't claim to understand German politics and the nature of this coalition, but it seems to constrain what the chancellor can say out loud about Nord Stream 2.”

This comes as Republicans and Democrats are continuing to negotiate over package to sanction Russia, with the key sticking points being pre-invasion sanctions and Nord Stream 2. 

“Obviously time is not on our side here,” he said of negotiations, “So we've got to put this to bed in the next couple days," Murphy said.

Some context: Nord Stream 2 is one of several pipelines that Russia has laid underwater in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea to replace pipelines that that run through eastern Europe.


5:35 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Germany's foreign minister and Ukraine's president cancel meeting due to differences on Russia, source says

From CNN’s Jake Tapper

A meeting between German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been canceled, the official reason being a scheduling error.

However, a source close to the Ukrainian government tells CNN’s Jake Tapper that the meeting “did not take place due to the fact the German foreign minister refused to say Germany would abandon the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline even if Russia invades.” And also, because of “Germany’s refusal to provide any military assistance directly or indirectly to Kyiv.”

The source also tells Tapper, "Germany is increasingly viewed as more of a Russian ally than a western ally by many in Eastern Europe and Kyiv. And they act like it- look at former Chancellor Schroeder".

In a live interview with Olaf Scholz in DC on Monday evening, Tapper put the question directly to Germany’s chancellor following his meeting with US President Joe Biden.  

Tapper said, “So you and the Foreign Minister won’t say explicitly that if Russia invades Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is dead. I’ve heard you refer to this as a ‘strategic ambiguity’. And this strategic ambiguity got President Zelensky so angry today, he wouldn’t even meet with your foreign minister.”

Scholz did not outright deny it, saying instead, “I don’t know whether this is the truth”, adding Baerbock was currently in Ukraine, and that he’d sent her there to go to the frontlines and examine the situation.  

He also said Germany was working with the US, NATO and EU allies to firm up concrete steps they’d take jointly in the event of a Russian invasion. 

Scholz said to Tapper, “we are absolutely active working together with the United States especially, and with our allies in NATO and the European Union to find out the concrete measures, the concrete steps we will take if there would be a military invasion of the Ukraine. And in this case, we will act absolutely together. We will have all the same steps that we will take then. And we are preparing for this. And this will be a lot of sanctions which will harm Russia intensely.”
5:03 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Biden says he still believes Russia could de-escalate

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden answers a question shouted by a reporter after a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the East Room of the White House on February 7 in Washington, DC.
President Joe Biden answers a question shouted by a reporter after a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the East Room of the White House on February 7 in Washington, DC. (Alex Brandon/AP)

As he departed his joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Biden reaffirmed his belief that Russia could pursue a diplomatic off-ramp amid ongoing military buildup on the Ukraine border.

“The answer is yes,” Biden said as he walked out of the room when asked whether he still believed Russia could de-escalate with 100,000 Russian troops at the border.

He did not respond to a follow up question on how that could be accomplished.

The Biden administration continues to pursue de-escalation through diplomatic channels.

“We believe that there is a very distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin will order an attack on Ukraine. It could take a number of different forms. It could happen as soon as tomorrow or it could take some weeks. Yet he has put himself in a position with military deployments to be able to act aggressively against Ukraine at any time now,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News Sunday.

He added, “Or Russia could choose to take the diplomatic path instead, the key thing is that the United States needs to be and is prepared for any of those contingencies in lockstep with our allies and partners.”

But as CNN reported earlier Monday, the diplomatic path is narrower than ever.

"We are in Hail Mary territory," a US official said.

Meanwhile in Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin had sharply critical words for NATO and Ukraine in a news conference following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, but suggested that "further steps" were possible on the diplomatic front after the French leader heads to Kyiv on Tuesday.

"A number of his proposals and ideas, about which it is too early to speak, I consider quite possible in order to lay a foundation for our further steps," Putin said. "Let's see how the meetings for the president [Macron] will go in Kyiv. After his trip to Ukraine, we will call each other again and exchange views on this matter."

CNN's Nathan Hodge and Uliana Pavlova contributed reporting to this post.

4:48 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Biden: US "could make up a significant portion" of lost fuel if Europe is cut off from Russian gas

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

President Biden said Monday that the United States is evaluating how it could help Europe with alternative energy supplies in case of a conflict with Russia, given that the European region relies on Russian gas. 

“First of all, we are looking at opportunities to make up for lost gas, LNG, from Russia,” Biden said during a joint news conference at the White House with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “We're underway and trying to see what we can do to do that, dealing with our friends around the world as well.”

“We think we could make up a significant portion of it that would be lost. But what everybody forgets here is Russia needs to be able to sell that gas and sell that oil,” he continued. “Russia relies – it’s a significant part of Russia budget. It’s the only thing they really have export. And if in fact it's cut off, then they're going to be hurt very badly as well. And it’s of consequence to them as well.” 

“This is not just a one way street. And so, we are looking at what we could do to help compensate for loss of, immediate loss of gas in Europe if it occurs. And that's what we've been working on for some time now,” the President added.

5:03 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Biden says Germany is "completely reliable" amid uncertainty about chancellor's willingness to confront Moscow

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden emphatically stated Monday that Germany is “completely reliable” and that the US-German partnership is one of “complete trust” amid questions about Germany’s willingness to confront Moscow in the ongoing standoff between Russia and Ukraine.

“There’s no need to win back trust. He has the complete trust of the United States. Germany is one of our most important allies in the world. There is no doubt about Germany’s partnership with the United States, none,” Biden said as he stood beside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Monday when asked if he felt Germany was a reliable partner.

He noted that Germany has been “one of the largest contributors financially to Ukraine.”

Biden continued, “Germany is completely reliable. Completely, totally, thoroughly reliable. I have no doubt about Germany.”

More background: As CNN has reported, among the United States' major European allies, Germany has appeared the most reluctant to commit to lethal aid, sending thousands of helmets instead of weapons and refusing to allow another NATO ally, Estonia, to send German-made howitzers to Ukraine. Germany has not joined the United States, France, Spain and other allies in bolstering troops along NATO's eastern flank.

Biden later added that Germany is “an incredibly reliable ally and one of the leading physical powers in NATO.”

Scholz reiterated that the US-German relationship was “strong and unbreakable.”

4:48 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

McConnell calls on Germany to do more to counter Russia's possible invasion of Ukraine

From CNN's Ted Barrett

(Senate TV)
(Senate TV)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained Monday that Germany should be doing more to counter Russia’s threats to invade Ukraine by spending more on its military and committing that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany, would be dead if Russia were to attack its neighbor. 

“There is no question Germany could do more given its influential role, including within the EU and NATO, to advance our shared foreign policy and security interest. Factor in the Cold War, the West German military was truly a capable fighting force. But Germany military has been allowed to atrophy and it suffers from shortfalls in readiness and maintenance. They committed 2% of their GDP to defense and 20% of that defense spending toward modernization. But it has taken very few credible steps to meet that pledge,” McConnell said. 

“Our friends are too powerful and too prosperous not to contribute more militarily to our alliance,” he added. 

On the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, McConnell said Germany understands the concerns from the international community to its existence, which is why Germany hasn’t cleared it to begin operating.  

“It would be a powerful demonstration of German leadership for Chancellor Scholz to declare firmly and simply that Russian escalation in Europe will result in the termination of Nord Stream 2. Not another pause, the end of the pipeline period,” McConnell said. 

McConnell spoke on the Senate floor as President Biden and Scholz were holding a news conference at the White House following a meeting between the two leaders.


4:32 p.m. ET, February 7, 2022

Biden says he doesn't know if Putin will authorize Ukraine invasion

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

President Biden said he still does not know if Vladimir Putin will authorize an invasion of Ukraine before the end of the winter, but added that the Russian president is in a “position now” to do so.

“I don't know that he knows what he's going to do,” Biden said at a press conference on Monday. “I know that he's in a position now to be able to invade almost assuming that the ground is frozen above Kyiv. He has the capacity to do that. What he's going to do, I don't know. And I don't think anybody knows but him.”

Putin has now assembled 70% of the military personnel and weapons on Ukraine's borders he would need for a full-scale invasion of the country, according to two US officials familiar with the latest estimates.

Biden reiterated on Monday what grave consequences Russia would face should it invade Ukraine.

Speaking of Putin, Biden said, “I think he has to realize that it would be a gigantic mistake for him to move on Ukraine, the impact on Europe and the rest of the world would be devastating. And he would pay a heavy price.”

“I have been very, very straightforward and blunt with President Putin, both on the phone and in person. We will impose the most severe sanctions that have ever been imposed economic sanctions, and there'll be a lot to pay for that down the road,” Biden added.

The President said the impact will be felt around the globe, not only on Europeans, Russians but also Americans “somewhat.”