BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany hopes that improved relations with the United States under U.S. President Joe Biden will open the door for possible joint sanctions against China and Russia over human rights and other abuses, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.
He said the trans-Atlantic partners should act together to defend their common interests and values and lamented the lack of coordinated action under former president Donald Trump.
Trump’s presidency was marked by intense pressure on Germany over its failure to meet defence spending obligations as mandated by the NATO military alliance, Germany’s insistence on buying Russian natural gas, and trade policies.
Trump also angered European powers by pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached when Biden was vice president in Barack Obama’s administration, as well as exerting pressure to ban China’s Huawei from European 5G networks.
“I hope that we will be able to return to a common trans-Atlantic position on targeted sanctions, something that was not possible over the last four years,” Maas told an event on U.S.-German relations organised by the Brookings Institution.
Germany has imposed sanctions on Russia with its European Union partners over Moscow’s arming of separatist forces in Ukraine and attacks on opponents of President Vladimir Putin.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the almost completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany as a commercial project. She rejected Trump’s demands to ditch it and buy liquefied gas from the United States, instead of being dependent on Putin’s Russia for energy.
Germany has in recent months taken steps to meet U.S. concerns, extending its military mission in Afghanistan and planning to sail a warship across the South China Sea, where the Washington says freedom of navigation is threatened by China.
Last year Germany enacted an IT security law setting high hurdles for makers of telecommunications equipment for next-generation networks, like China’s Huawei, though the legislation falls short of a blanket ban on using products made by the world’s largest maker – as demanded by Washington.
(This story corrects last paragraph to delete reference to Huawei as a state-owned company)
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich)