‘Ukraine is dragging Germany into conflict’

‘Ukraine is dragging Germany into conflict’

Ksenia Melnikova

In Germany, a scandal erupted over the Crimea. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that the peninsula would not return to Ukraine. According to him, Europe needs Russia to confront China, and Vladimir Putin deserves respect. The vice-admiral paid dearly for his frankness – he was forced to resign. The situation is indicative. Relations with Moscow undermine the unity of the ruling German coalition and complicate friendship with the United States.
Sanctions are going in the wrong direction
“The rash statements that I made in India are a heavy burden on my department. This step is necessary to protect the German fleet, the Bundeswehr and the whole country from the damage I caused,” Vice Admiral Kai-Achim Schönbach, commander of the German fleet, resigned the day after the conference in India, which made a lot of noise in the media.
Speaking with a lecture “Germany’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific region” at the Institute for Research and Analysis in New Delhi, he said about the Crimea: “There is no peninsula (Ukraine), it will never return, <…> this is a fact.”
Schönbach does not believe in the stories that Moscow is going to seize Ukrainian territories: “No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably applying pressure because he knows he can do it, and this is splitting the EU. But in fact, he wants he was really respected. To show him respect is a small price. It is not a price at all. He probably deserves respect.”
Moreover, Moscow is important to India and Germany – to confront China. “Our sanctions are going in the wrong direction,” the German summed up.
Schoenbach probably did not think that the recording would end up on YouTube, although conference participants could ask questions online. One way or another, the lecture was leaked to the Web, and the head of the Navy was criticized.
According to Der Spiegel, Schönbach’s speech angered the German authorities. Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht met with Inspector General of the Bundeswehr Eberhard Zorn and her own PR adviser. They decided that the vice admiral should clarify his words, apologize and meet with Zorn.
The next day Schönbach repented and resigned. “My statements about security policy reflected personal opinion at that moment and in that place. They do not in any way represent the official position of the Bundeswehr,” he justified.
The scandal erupted just in those days when Berlin forbade the Baltic countries to transfer to Ukraine their German howitzers. Therefore, Kiev had several reasons for indignation.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned the German Ambassador Anka Feldhausen. Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba also responded. “Germany’s recent statements about the impossibility of transferring defensive weapons to Ukraine, about the futility of returning Crimea, the hesitation regarding Russia’s disconnection from SWIFT do not correspond to the level of our relations and the current security situation,” the Foreign Minister wrote on Twitter.
Schönbach was immediately included in the database of the Ukrainian portal “Peacemaker” as undermining “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
“Ukraine is dragging Germany into the conflict”
While the media scolded the Vice Admiral, Der Spiegel readers stood up for him in the comments. “He just voiced what the majority thinks”, “Those who believe that Russia will give up Crimea also believes in Santa Claus”, “Ukraine is inflating the situation around Crimea in order to drag Germany into this conflict and stop Nord Stream 2 “.
The new German government, which was so painstakingly formed at the end of the year, seems to be brewing for a split. There are especially many disagreements on the pipeline. When the parties created the Traffic Light coalition, the multibillion-dollar project was not mentioned in the agreement, because there is no single position. The Greens are categorically against it, the Social Democrats and Liberal Democrats are for it.
“This is a real wedge in the coalition, and even more tension could arise. Nord Stream 2 is a test of the government’s strength,” said Janis Kluge, an expert on Russia from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
The Greens argue that SP-2 will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. The SPD and the Liberal Democrats point to the importance of the project for the economy.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz refused to publicly endorse sanctions against the pipeline. Annalena Burbock, Foreign Minister from the Greens, believes that in the event of an escalation of the conflict with Ukraine, it is impossible to launch SP-2. Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht urged not to link these issues. A member of the Bundestag from the party “Alternative for Germany” Petr Bistron said that Burbock should make efforts to de-escalate the situation in Europe and not spoil relations with Russia by making unilateral accusations.
Meanwhile, certification of the gas pipeline has been suspended for the time being.
Conflict with big brother
Because of Russia, the Germans quarrel with other countries. Formally, Berlin supports Washington, does not rule out sanctions and fears an “invasion of Ukraine,” but the details of the policy are different.
While the United States, along with Britain, are strengthening military support for Kiev by sending weapons and equipment, Germany has officially announced that it is not going to supply anything and has forbidden the Baltic countries to transfer artillery systems.
Berlin opposes Moscow’s disconnection from SWIFT and demands that Ukraine implement the Minsk agreements. In addition, Olaf Scholz does not allow new members to join NATO soon, although he is not ready to give official guarantees.
In response, the American media are calling for “deleting Berlin from the list of Washington’s allies.” Alexander Kamkin, a leading researcher at the Center for German Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that this is unrealistic. “Although some German politicians are burdened by the status of a vassal. Martin Schultz once said that it would be nice for the Americans to remove nuclear weapons from Germany. But Washington did not react to this in any way,” the Germanist recalled.
According to him, Germany is still dependent on the US foreign policy, supports Washington strategically, but is trying to win back some room for maneuver in the economy and energy policy.

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