Wednesday, May 18, 2022

German caution on arms to Ukraine is rooted in history, energy

BERLIN ( Associated Press) — Germany’s refusal to join other NATO members in providing arms to Ukraine has angered some allies and raised questions about Berlin’s resolve to stand with Russia.

The issue surfaced over the weekend after a report that Berlin had gone so far as to block Estonia from supplying old German howitzers to Kiev to help defend itself against Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said on Twitter that Germany’s stance on arms supplies “does not correspond to the level of our relations and the current security situation.”

Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denied any decision on howitzers and insisted that his country stands with its NATO and EU allies in resisting any Russian incursion into Ukraine. .

“If such a situation happens, we will act jointly,” he told reporters. “There will be a high price.”

Nevertheless, while Germany will continue to provide aid to Ukraine, there will be an exception, he said: “We do not provide any lethal weapons.”

That stance, which has been criticized in Kiev and – less loudly – in Washington and London, has caused panic among some in Germany who worry that their country may not be considered a reliable partner.

“How many people in Berlin really know how our confused Ukraine policy hurts not only (Germany) but the entire EU?” asked Wolfgang Ischinger, the former ambassador of Germany to the United States and now head of the annual Munich Security Conference.

Experts say that Germany’s position is partly rooted in its disgusting history of aggressive aggression during the 20th century.

“Germany has a clear legacy of its militarization in Europe during the two world wars that has prompted many German leaders to view any military response as a last resort,” said deputy director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program in Washington Rachel Alehus-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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That said, that attitude could backfire. “The current government does not seem to understand that sending defensive weapons to Ukraine can actually prevent a Russian offensive.”

And while Germany has in the past pointed to its restrictive position on arms exports to conflict zones, analysts say the rule has not been consistently enforced.

“There have always been border issues here, like the Kosovo war or the support of the Kurds against IS in Syria,” said Sabine Fischer, a senior Russian expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

The German arms debate came days after the chief of the German navy resigned following criticism at home and abroad for comments made on Ukraine and Russia., Speaking at an event in India on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said it was important for Russia to be on the same side against China and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves “respect”.

Steeped in the legacy of the Cold War rapprochement followed by his predecessor Willy Brandt with Scholz’s Social Democrats, and rooted in a tradition of Greens pacifism, two of Germany’s three governing parties supplied arms to a non-NATO country. lean on the idea. In conflict with Russia. But letting Estonia pass the older Soviet-designed 122-mm D-30 howitzers to Ukraine may be an acceptable compromise.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock clarified that, while worrying about exporting arms to Ukraine, Berlin takes a dim view of Russia’s behavior.

“In recent weeks, more than 100,000 Russian soldiers with tanks and guns have gathered near Ukraine without any understanding. And it is difficult not to see this as a threat,” she said during a recent visit to Moscow.

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Speaking with his Russian counterpart – whom he referred to as a “dear ally” – Bairbock acknowledged the “suffering and destruction that we Germans inflicted upon the people of the Soviet Union” during the Nazi era, but warned that Germany Willing to consider difficult steps. If Russia takes action against Ukraine.

This includes questioning the future of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which aims to bring much-needed natural gas from Russia to Germany.

Such a move against its biggest energy supplier would also come at a high cost for Germany.

With plans to shut down its last three nuclear power plants this year and end coal use by 2030, Germany’s reliance on gas will increase in the short term until enough renewable energy comes online, a senior at Bruegel said. Fellow George Zachman said. Economic think tank in Brussels.

Yet German officials believe it could benefit from being a major customer of Russian gas, as Moscow would not want to damage its reputation as a reliable supplier of gas, which has been painstakingly for decades.

Speaking on Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Bairbock said the German government’s priority was to de-escalate Ukraine’s position, downplaying allies’ calls for military support to Kiev and new sanctions against Moscow. have to accelerate.

“Berlin has to deal with the criticism that is now coming from Ukraine, other European countries and Washington,” Fischer said. “At the same time, Germany remains a key player in the negotiations surrounding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and, I predict, will continue to support sanctions and other measures in the future.”


Geir Moulsen in Berlin contributed to this report.


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