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Germany prepares to host the world for major meetings

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, world leaders are convening at a pair of summits in Europe. And Russia's invasion of Ukraine looms large over both. The first meeting is the Group of Seven. That's the meeting of leaders of the world's richest democracies, which began three days of meetings today. World leaders there have already committed billions of dollars to global infrastructure projects, and they are expected to address Russian sanctions and the economic fallout of the war. Later this week, leaders from NATO's countries are expected to adopt a strategic concept to reflect the reality of a more aggressive and adversarial Russia.

Germany is a key player in both of these organizations and is currently hosting the G-7 meeting, so we reached out to Germany's ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, and she is with us now. Ambassador, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

EMILY HABER: Thank you for inviting me.

MARTIN: First, Germany will be represented, as we said, at both conferences this week. As someone who has spent many years in Germany's foreign ministry, what would you say are the top priorities for these meetings? And what would you say would be the atmosphere as leaders gather at this pivotal moment?

HABER: Look; when we started our planning for the G-7 residency this year, we had planned to focus on climate protection and biodiversity and the infrastructure gap. And all of these topics obviously are very important, but our agenda has been upended by Russia's aggression against Ukraine. So what the war in Ukraine, with Russia's aggression against Ukraine against the territorial sovereignty of the democracy of Ukraine has produced is a really unprecedented degree of unity, of cohesion, of sense of purpose and sense of direction.

MARTIN: I do want to talk more about the way forward for the alliance, but before we do that, I did want to ask a little bit more about your perspective, because I know you have a background in dealing with Russia. You served at the German embassy in Moscow. And I was wondering if your time there gives you some insights that you'd be willing to share into what we're seeing today.

HABER: When I served in Moscow, I would have thought it unimaginable that Russia would try to make a territorial land grab against an independent neighboring country. That's where we are right now. The Russian aggression has really ended an era. It has ended the post-Cold War era. I've been in Moscow before it ended, and I have been in Moscow when the Cold War ended, and I've been in Moscow during the post-war era. What we're seeing now is the emergence of a new era. What it will be like, it's still the very early stages. It would be difficult to say, but it has been triggered by a war.

MARTIN: Well, you've noted that the alliance has grown stronger and closer as a consequence of Russia's aggression. But we are seeing differences in the question of how to deal with Russian energy and the, you know, serious disruption in energy supplies as a result of the war. Does the German government worry that these stressors will make it difficult for the alliance to continue its solidarity going forward? We don't know how long this conflict is going to last.

HABER: Yes, to different vantage points, because countries across Europe - and it's true for the United States, too - come with their different experiences, interdependencies, vulnerabilities, exposures and so forth. And among an alliance of so many countries, countries in Europe and the United States will always have conversations on how best to shape sanctions in a way that will hit Russia in a staggering way while mitigating potential consequences on us. That's what's happening right now.

MARTIN: So, Madam Ambassador, before we let you go, these big international meetings are expensive, time-consuming to put on. But I just wanted to ask if you would, before you let us go, just your thoughts about why these kinds of meetings matter. These are the first in-person meetings that many of these leaders will have had since the waning of the COVID pandemic. I mean, they had been meeting, of course, but, you know, virtually, many of them had. Why do you think it matters to meet face to face?

HABER: In-person meetings produce a completely different environment for interaction. And look; it's hugely important at this moment in time. It's about alliance management. It's about shaping alliances and alignments and partnerships at a point in time, as I said before, where geopolitics is actually upending the entire political landscape in which we acted before. And the series of meetings of heads of state of government is also communicating to the rest of the world how close we are, how unified we are in our sense of purpose, how united we are in our sense of direction and where we want to go.

MARTIN: That was Germany's ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber. Ambassador Haber, thank you so much for talking with us and sharing your perspective.

HABER: Thank you for inviting me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.