Germany quiet on Trump, Ukraine badmouthing during call

David Rising

Berlin – During a telephone conversation that now underlies an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy briefly bantered about a U.S. ally in Europe.

“Germany does almost nothing for you, all they do is talk,” Trump told his counterpart in Kyiv. Zelenskiy agreed, replying, “You are absolutely right, not only 100%, but actually 1,000%.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office has refused to comment on the two leaders’ comments since the White House released a rough transcript from their July 25 call. But the badmouthing certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, talks during a meeting of the German federal parliament in Berlin on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Chancellor Merkel’s office has refused to comment on disparaging comments by Trump and Zelenskiy during their phone conversation that underlies the impeachment inquiry.

“Trump goes after Merkel,” the front-page headline in Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper screamed Thursday. The story itself led with: “Relations between Berlin and Washington have finally hit their low point.”

The German Foreign Ministry also refused to comment directly on the conversation.

But it did provide The Associated Press with details of Germany’s aid to Ukraine: 1.18 billion euros ($1.29 billion) in bilateral support since the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and another 200 million euros conveyed through the European Union.

The EU gives Ukraine more aid than any single country. The 28-nation bloc estimates it mobilized more than 15 billion euros in support of the country’s democratic reform process since 2014.

Germany is the third-largest bilateral donor to Ukraine after the EU and the U.S.A., the German Foreign Ministry said, citing figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Germany’s support has been focused on development aid, stabilization measures and humanitarian help, rather than military assistance.

Though the conversation with Zelenskiy was two months ago, Trump has apparently not changed his ideas about Germany not doing its fair share for Ukraine.

He told reporters this week, when asked about withholding U.S. funds for Ukraine, “I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.”

“Because they’re not doing it. Just the United States,” Trump said. “We’re putting up the bulk of the money…. Europe has to put up money for Ukraine also. Why is it only the United States putting up the money?”

In a breakdown of Germany’s support since 2014, the Foreign Ministry said the country has provided Ukraine with 544 million euros in development aid, and a credit line of another 500 million euros not targeted to specific projects.

It also gave 110 million euros in humanitarian assistance during the same time period, and 25 million euros for stabilization measures including conflict monitoring and peace talks.

The ministry also noted that Germany joined with France to lead western efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine through so-called “Normandy Format” talks with Russia and Ukraine.

“Germany is extensively involved in Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The telephone call also featured criticism of France.

Trump urged Zelenskiy to talk with Germany about assistance, saying: “When I was speaking to Angela Merkel, she talks Ukraine but she doesn’t do anything.” Zelenskiy suggested he already had brought up concerns with both Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her,” Zelenskiy said according to the transcript released by the White House. “I also met and talked with Macron, and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the (Russian) sanctions. They are not enforcing the sanctions. They are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine.”

The EU imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, though Zelenskiy suggested the U.S. was doing “much more than the European Union, especially when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation.”

On Thursday, Zelenskiy sought to walk back his comments. He said he was “grateful for any assistance to Ukraine from our European leaders, from Ms. Merkel, from Mr. Macron, and from others,” he said.

But he maintained criticism of the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which will bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine by running under the Baltic Sea, calling it “‘’a big threat to our energy security.”


Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this story.