NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third world war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel, when he was asked to comment on why Germany has not delivered heavy weapons to Ukraine.
''There is no rule book for this situation that states at what point we are considered a party to the war in Ukraine,'' Scholz said in the interview, which was published Friday, when asked why he thought delivering tanks to Ukraine could lead to nuclear war.
"That's why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another," Scholz said, adding that avoiding "an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me."
"There must be no nuclear war,'' Scholz said.
"That's why I don't focus on polls or let myself be irritated by shrill calls. The consequences of an error would be dramatic," he added.
Scholz is facing growing criticism from within Germany and abroad for his government's alleged reluctance to deliver heavy weapons, such as tanks and howitzers, to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion has entered a new and potentially decisive phase.
In the interview, Scholz warned he does not ''think it is justified for Germany and NATO to become warring parties in Ukraine.''
Scholz also said he does not believe an embargo on Russian gas would end the war in Ukraine.
"I absolutely do not see how a gas embargo would end the war. If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin were open to economic arguments, he would never have begun this crazy war," he said.
"Secondly, you act as if this was about money. But it's about avoiding a dramatic economic crisis and the loss of millions of jobs and factories that would never again open their doors," he said.
The German chancellor and his government have also come under fire for not weaning off Russian energy immediately. Scholz said in early April that his country is doing all it can to achieve this goal "very soon."
Scholz said the most important goal in the current situation is a ceasefire and that Russian troops must withdraw. ''There must be a peace agreement that enables Ukraine to defend itself in future,'' he said.