Morning Brief

Foreign Policy’s flagship daily newsletter with what’s coming up around the world today. Delivered weekdays.

Olaf Scholz Goes to Washington

Amid domestic criticism for his absence on Ukraine, the German chancellor begins a diplomatic whistle-stop tour.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a statement to media before a conference in Berlin in on Jan. 21.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a statement to media before a conference in Berlin in on Jan. 21.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a statement to media before a conference in Berlin in on Jan. 21. Carstensen - Pool/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits the White House, French President Emmanuel Macron visits Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Scholz at the White House

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits the White House, French President Emmanuel Macron visits Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Scholz at the White House

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday at the White House, his first trip to Washington since succeeding Angela Merkel in December.

Monday’s meeting comes as the Biden administration seeks to present a united front in its diplomatic deliberations with Russia. Washington has accused Moscow of destabilizing the region by massing troops near its border with Ukraine.

“I think the important message for the administration is that Germany and the United States are on the same page in being prepared to impose major costs, unprecedented costs, on Russia if it commits aggression against Ukraine,” said Jeff Rathke, the president of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University.

Germany has stood out among major NATO allies for its refusal to arm Ukraine, or allow others to send German-made weapons, in keeping with its overall policy of restraint and more specifically its refusal to export weapons to combat zones.

Scholz’s party, the Social Democrats, have historically seen Russia in a warmer light, which has raised in fears in Washington that he may be wary of upsetting his own rank and file in an already unprecedented three-party coalition.

Rathke said Monday’s meeting isn’t about the White House needing to win over the new German leader but rather to coordinate positions on what could be a rocky road of sanctions, the impact of which will be more keenly felt in Europe than the United States. “This is not about treating Germany with kid gloves. It’s about Germany simply being crucial in the particular crisis that the White House is having to deal with right now,” Rathke said.

In an interview with the German broadcaster ARD, Scholz reiterated the German position on weapons shipments to Ukraine but suggested that he would soon shore up a German-led NATO force in Lithuania. He also sought to stave off domestic criticism that Germany has stepped back and let others, such as Emmanuel Macron’s France, take the lead on guiding European policy in the crisis. In the case of Europe, “it’s not about saying something every day but doing something every day,” Scholz said.

Scholz’s White House visit kicks off a week of diplomacy at a level of intensity not seen since he took office, with a three-way meeting with Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda later this week, a visit with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and European Council President Charles Michel, and a Balkan leaders’ summit all on the schedule.

The flurry of meetings and summits all come ahead of a Valentine’s Day date to remember: a visit to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Might Feb. 14 be too late for Ukraine? U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan suggested the possibility on Sunday, telling Fox News an invasion could happen “any day now”—or later or not at all.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who is meeting his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, in Kyiv on Monday, has asked for people to ignore “apocalyptic predictions.”

“Different capitals have different scenarios, but Ukraine is ready for any development,” Kuleba said.


The World This Week

Tuesday, Feb. 8: French President Emmanuel Macron visits Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Macron and Polish President Andrzej Duda head to Berlin for a three-way summit on Ukraine hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Libya’s parliament is scheduled to vote on a new prime minister to replace Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

Wednesday, Feb 9: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Australia to take part in a Quad foreign ministers’ meeting. He is expected to also meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Thursday, Feb 10: The first phase of voting in India’s Uttar Pradesh state elections begin, with results expected on March 10.

Indonesia’s central bank issues its interest rate decision.

A two-day meeting of Quad foreign ministers takes place in Melbourne, Australia.

An advisor-level meeting of Normandy Format countries (France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine) takes place in Berlin.

Russia and Belarus hold joint military exercises, dubbed Allied Resolve 2022, in southern and western Belarus.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his state of the nation address.

Friday, Feb. 11: Russia’s central bank issues its interest rate decision.

Saturday, Feb. 12: Blinken visits Fiji.

The U.S. secretary of state also hosts a meeting of his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Hawaii.

Sunday, Feb. 13: Germany’s Federal Assembly chooses a new German president, with incumbent Frank-Walter Steinmeier running for another five-year term.


What We’re Following

Macron to Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Moscow on Monday as the French leader seeks to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine. In an interview with a French weekly newspaper prior to his visit, Macron said it was “legitimate for Russia to pose the question of its own security” and dismissed concerns that Putin wished to bring Ukraine under Russia’s control. “The geopolitical objective of Russia today is clearly not Ukraine but to clarify the rules of cohabitation with NATO and the EU,” Macron said.

EU-U.S. energy summit. European Union and U.S. officials meet in Washington on Monday to discuss energy cooperation against the backdrop of rising prices and a possible cut to European supplies amid Russia-Ukraine tensions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm are among the high-profile U.S. attendees, while EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell and European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson attend on the EU side. Writing in Foreign Policy last week, Nicholas Kumleben explains why diverting liquefied natural gas exports to Europe wouldn’t be a silver bullet in the event of a Russian shutoff.


Keep an Eye On

Peru’s political turmoil. Peruvian President Pedro Castillo is seeking his fourth government in six months after his most recent prime minister resigned within four days of taking the post. Héctor Valer stepped down from his position on Saturday over allegations he had beaten his wife and daughter. Castillo has not said whether Valer will leave his cabinet and when a new one will be announced.

Iraq’s presidential vote. The selection of Iraq’s next president, previously scheduled for Monday, has been indefinitely delayed after the Iraqi Supreme Court blocked the bid of Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish businessman, over corruption charges against him. Threats to boycott Monday’s parliament session from such a large number of lawmakers mean the body is unlikely to have the numbers to approve a new president. The episode further delays the formation of a government led by Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, the largest group in the Iraqi parliament.


Odds and Ends 

Iceland is set to wind down its commercial whaling industry, said Icelandic Fisheries Minister Svandis Svavarsdottir said last Friday. She cited its dwindling economic benefits and said there were “few justifications to authorize the whale hunt beyond 2024.”

Iceland’s whale hunters have faced challenges since Japan reauthorized commercial whaling in 2019 and have had to sail farther for catches due to an extended no-fishing zone around the island. Only 14 boats continue the practice today, bringing in 575 whales—less than half the allowed quota—in 2021.

If Iceland bans whaling, it will leave Norway and Japan as the only countries where commercial whaling remains legal.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

Join the Conversation

Commenting on this and other recent articles is just one benefit of a Foreign Policy subscription.

Already a subscriber? .

Join the Conversation

Join the conversation on this and other recent Foreign Policy articles when you subscribe now.

Not your account?

Join the Conversation

Please follow our comment guidelines, stay on topic, and be civil, courteous, and respectful of others’ beliefs. Comments are closed automatically seven days after articles are published.

You are commenting as .

More from Foreign Policy

Demonstrators and activists attend a vigil in support of Ukraine near European Union headquarters in Brussels on March 22.
Demonstrators and activists attend a vigil in support of Ukraine near European Union headquarters in Brussels on March 22.

How the Russian Oil Price Cap Will Work

Ignore the naysayers—the long-prepared plan is a smart way to slash the Kremlin’s profits.

Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022, near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022, near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

‘They Are Pushing Everywhere’: Kyiv Goes on the Offensive

Ukraine may have achieved its biggest breakthrough of the war.

A Chinese Communist Party flag is seen next to a health worker wearing protective clothing as a worker registers for a COVID-19 test at a makeshift testing site in Beijing on April 28.
A Chinese Communist Party flag is seen next to a health worker wearing protective clothing as a worker registers for a COVID-19 test at a makeshift testing site in Beijing on April 28.

The Chinese Public Doesn’t Know What the Rules Are Anymore

Reckless policies have knocked out established norms.

An orchestra at the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia
An orchestra at the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia

The Last String of Russian Greatness Is About to Snap

A great classical music tradition might die because of the Ukraine invasion.