Specific comments made by the head of the German navy, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, during an official visit to India led to his resignation while his words turned out to be poor in taste in Germany and triggered a diplomatic situation in Ukraine.
During an event organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) in New Delhi, the above-cited officer said that Ukraine would never get back the Crimean peninsula which Moscow annexed in March 2014, and he further added that the Russian President Vladimir Putin well deserves “respect”.
Now such a bold statement comes during a tense situation where Russia has deployed over tens of thousands of troops amassed threateningly at Ukraine’s borders while, as per the USA, Russia is highly likely invading Ukraine.
However, the naval chief was asked for an obvious explanation by the German Defence Ministry, for which the official said that the views expressed by him in the event were “personal” for that moment on the spot. He also stated that he is well aware of the clear mistake he made and that not being enough, a resignation was submitted by the officer later that evening requesting the Defence Minister to relieve him from his duties with immediate effect.
The Russia - Ukraine Scenario
As per several reports, Russia has positioned more than a hundred thousand troops along the border, and there is a high possibility that an invasion by Russia could be made; on the other hand, as per the Western Nations, Russia and Ukraine could be on the brink of war. British officials also mentioned that a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv is being planned to be installed by Putin.
The previous day, a report by the Pentagon suggested that around 8,500 American troops have been kept on high alert in the United States if the security situation in Europe deteriorates further or if NATO activates its Response Force.
Apart from the above, fighter jets and ships have been accelerated by NATO allies who have put forces on standby to bolster Europe’s eastern defences as tensions soar over Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine.
In a recent virtual meeting between US President Joe Biden and European and NATO leaders, a shared desire for a diplomatic resolution to tensions with Moscow was expressed by the allies, and behind the scene, they also warned Russia of “massive consequences” if it invades Ukraine.
Germany Differs From The Rest
With everything explained, Germany has a different take on the above-cited issue. A few days back, reports surged that Estonia was restricted from providing military support to Ukraine as Germany refused to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported to Kyiv. Unlike Poland, the United States, Britain, and other allies, the German government has declined the export of lethal weapons directly to Ukraine.
The reluctance offered by Germany raised questions on its support to Ukraine if Russia invades. On that note, the German officials privately mentioned being ready to shelve a gas pipeline directly from Russia to Germany, Nord Stream 2, although such a threat has yet to be made explicitly.
The issue of arms transfers stands as a difficult task for German policymakers to follow their NATO counterparts on. As per one of the reports released by The Foreign Policy, one of the resident fellows at the German Marshall Fund of the United States said that weapons deliveries are seen as contributing to further escalation in the German political discourse, unlike other nations where such acts are clearly seen as a deterrence measure.
As per the official, further actions to reassure allies don’t get ruled out while the arms transfers may be off the table politically like Germany led a NATO battalion to Lithuania in 2016.
What Does Putin Want?
Going back to history, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gained independence vaguely 30 years ago; since then, the state has struggled to combat corruption and bridge deep internal divisions. Above all, while the country’s eastern side favoured closer ties with Russia, the western region, on the other hand, generally supported integration with Western Europe.
In February 2014, when violent protesters ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, tensions between Russia and Ukraine peaked. While this has been now known as the Revolution of Dignity.
According to several wandering reports on the net, Ukraine is looked upon as a territory rather than an independent state by Putin; he considers the state as part of Russia’s “sphere of influence”. The reports further add that the Kremlin’s attempt to block Ukraine from joining the EU and NATO is driven by this sense.
But, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach’s views on such reports differ. In the event earlier mentioned in the report, the German Navy officer said that having a thought that Russia is intrigued in a small tiny strip of Ukraine soil to integrate into their country is nonsense, while the rationale behind Putin’s pressure is because he is aware that he can split up the European Union.
As per other reports, another reason behind the scenario is that Putin intends to use Ukraine to leverage Western powers to lift their sanctions. With that note, various political and financial sanctions are already in place against Russia by the US and potential allies and business partners to Russia.
(Edited by Aritra Banerjee)