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Germany Welcomes Swedish and Finnish Leaders

The leaders of NATO’s likely new members visit Berlin as Germany’s approach to Ukraine comes under the spotlight.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson welcomes Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson welcomes Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (left) welcomes Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin prior to a meeting on whether to seek NATO membership in Stockholm on April 13. PAUL WENNERHOLM/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Germany’s approach to the war in Ukraine, the brewing fight over abortion access in the United States, and more news worth following from around the world.

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Germany Welcomes Andersson and Marin

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Germany’s approach to the war in Ukraine, the brewing fight over abortion access in the United States, and more news worth following from around the world.

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


Germany Welcomes Andersson and Marin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is meeting with Prime Ministers Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and Sanna Marin of Finland as the two Nordic countries slowly but surely approach NATO membership.

According to Finnish newspaper Iltalehti, Finland will make clear its intention to join the alliance on May 12. That day will reportedly include Finnish President Sauli Niinisto giving his seal of approval followed by the requisite parliamentary groups.

As FP’s Elisabeth Braw wrote last week, Sweden has more reasons to be circumspect about NATO membership but is still expected to follow Finland’s lead. If no announcement is made beforehand, a May 17 visit to Sweden by Finland’s Niinisto gives the perfect backdrop for a joint declaration.

Unlike Ukraine and Georgia, there is no need for political hemming and hawing when it comes to admitting Germany’s Scandinavian neighbors into NATO. “The perception in Berlin is that it’s a manageable risk,” Liana Fix, program director for international affairs at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, told Foreign Policy.

Today’s meeting comes as Germany has become a punching bag due to its positions on Ukraine both before and after Russia invaded, with more hawkish countries to Germany’s east calling for more decisive action.

“Its the same as it was in January,” Fix said. “At some point, Germany comes around, but its the very last option when the pressure is really high, then it is finally being taken. And that’s frustrating. The actions are being taken, at a late stage, but the reputational damage has been done along the way.”

Scholz is also facing pressure from the opposition, with Christian Democrat leader Friedrich Merz set to travel to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tonight. Merz is making the trip to “save the honor of our country,” a Christian Democratic Union spokesperson said.

Despite Berlin’s apparent hesitancy, it has still made a significant contribution to Ukraine’s defense at a level that would have been unthinkable before the invasion, exemplified by last week’s decision by the German government to send 50 Gepard air-defense tanks to Ukraine, a far cry from the field hospitals it promised in January.

“Germany is always comfortable being part of the pack,” Jeffrey Rathke, an expert in German studies at Johns Hopkins University, told FP. “They dont want to be the most robust provider of weapons to Ukraine, but they also dont want to be in last place.”

Writing in FP, author James Hawes argues that Germany’s seesaw positions reflect deeper cultural realities in Germany, especially among typical Social Democratic voters.

Perhaps wary of the diplomatic damage its back-and-forth positioning has caused, Germany appears to be leading EU plans to ban Russian oil imports. The country has already dramatically reduced its Russian energy imports since the war began, dropping its dependence on Russian oil from 35 percent to 12 percent and on Russian gas from 55 percent to 35 percent.

As well as continuing to take practical steps to undermine Russia’s efforts in Ukraine, the German government needs to do a better job communicating, Fix said: “Instead of framing these successes within a can-do mentality, its all very defensive and very hesitant. And thats actually a shame because if you just look at whats happening on the oil and gas front, its not that bad.”


What We’re Following Today

U.S. abortion rights. The United States seems poised to overturn a key court ruling that has for decades provided constitutional protection for abortion rights, according to a leaked draft opinion by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito published on Monday night by Politico. Should the abortion ruling become final, it would go against the Western Hemisphere trend that has largely moved toward liberalizing abortion rights in recent years: Argentina legalized abortion in 2020, and Mexico and Colombia both decriminalized the procedure at the national level during the past few months.

Modi in Denmark. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today in Copenhagen as the Indian leader continues his European tour. Modi’s visit comes a day after Frederiksen announced a cabinet reshuffle following Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup’s decision to become the new head of the Danish Brewers’ Association.


Keep an Eye On

The French parliamentary race. Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left France Insoumise party joined forces with the Greens party on Monday, agreeing to a joint platform and tactical voting pact ahead of French parliamentary elections in June. The apparent weakness of French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party following his presidential victory in May has led to jostling among his rivals to check his power in parliament. Macron is hoping to form an alliance with center-right parties, including Les Républicains, to form a working majority.

Protests in Armenia. Armenian police detained 180 protesters on Monday in the capital, Yerevan, following demonstrations against Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Protests led by the country’s opposition have continued almost daily since April 17 as Pashinyan considers a potential peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

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

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