This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that a hasty U.S. pullout from Syria runs the risk of strengthening the roles of Russia and Iran in the Middle East.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 16, Merkel questioned whether the planned U.S. withdrawal was “a good idea.”
“Will it once more strengthen the capacity of Iran and Russia to exert their influence?” she asked.
She also cautioned against a premature U.S. withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, saying that NATO’s Resolute Support mission in that country was dependent on the U.S. military’s commitment.
The German leader also called on Beijing to join the international disarmament process. Earlier this month, the United States announced it was withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after claiming that Russia was violating it. But Washington is also concerned that the treaty restricts U.S. weaponry in Asia, but does not limit those of China.
Merkel noted that the INF Treaty was negotiated “essentially for Europe” and that without it, Europe would have to push for future disarmament agreements to ensure its own security.
“Disarmament is something that concerns us all and where we would, of course, be glad if such talks were held not just between the United States, Europe, and Russia, but also with China,” she said.
Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi told the Munich Conference shortly after Merkel’s speech that the INF Treaty should be saved, but that China would not sign it.
“China develops its capabilities strictly in accordance to its defensive needs and doesn’t pose a threat to anybody else,” Yang said. “So we are opposed to the multilateralization of the INF.”
Merkel also defended the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Washington is concerned will make Europe overly reliant on Russian gas.
Speaking as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looked on, she said his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the pipeline was complete.
Merkel noted that Europe also has enough terminals to receive more liquefied gas from the United States, among other options. “There’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.”