Ukrainian soldiers from the 25th Air Attack Battalion are seen stationed in Avdiivka, Ukraine on January 24, 2022.
Wolfgang Schwan | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Germany has provoked outrage in some circles after offering to supply 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine to help it defend itself against a possible Russian invasion.
About 100,000 Russian troops are believed to be on the border with Ukraine. While countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have sent military hardware to Ukraine, Germany has been remarkably reluctant to send equipment.
The offer of helmets given on Wednesday has been mocked by some Ukrainian officials. First, the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, rejected the offer as “a joke”, saying it had made him “speechless”.
“The behavior of the German government leaves me speechless. The Ministry of Defense has apparently not realized that we are confronted with perfectly equipped Russian forces, which can launch a new invasion of Ukraine at any time,” he told the German newspaper Bild on Wednesday.
“What kind of support will Germany send next time?” he asked. “Powder?”
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht speaks with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock during the weekly Cabinet meeting in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on January 26, 2022.
Michele Tantussi | Reuters
Germany’s defense minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday that Berlin was responding to a request for military equipment, specifically helmets, according to Reuters. The newspaper Bild also reported that the German government had received a request for help from Ukraine, in which it stated its need for 100,000 combat helmets and tactical vests.
Germany has previously said it would supply a fully equipped field hospital to Ukraine, but German officials have been reluctant to send more defensive weapons.
Last weekend, Germany’s defense minister said in an interview with the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that it would not be useful to send weapons to Ukraine, as attempts to dampen tensions between Russia and Ukraine are still ongoing.
“We are on Kiev’s side. We have to do everything to de-escalate. At the moment, arms supplies would not be useful in this regard; there is agreement on this in the German government,” Lambrecht told the newspaper on Saturday, according to a translation by Deutsche Welle.
Her comments come after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a news conference last Friday that “Germany has not supported the export of deadly weapons in recent years,” DW reported.
In addition, Germany has reportedly blocked the Baltic nation Estonia from providing military support of German origin to Ukraine, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal last Friday.
Ukraine needs ‘defensive weapons’
Last week, Germany’s new chancellor said “remaining silent is not a sensible option” after years of tension on Europe’s doorstep. But while Germany and France may prefer to rely on crisis talks with Russia and Ukraine to try to avert a possible confrontation (the four countries met on Wednesday for talks in Paris), NATO and the US are trying to arm Ukraine – so it can defend itself – without sending troops into the country.
As Ukraine is not a member of the Western military alliance, the organization is not obliged to defend it. It is also not a member of the European Union, although it strives to be a member of both.
However, given Ukraine’s position on the EU border, NATO allies are in the unusual position of being obliged to some extent to help Ukraine defend itself in order to counter an increasingly aggressive Russia that wants to expand its influence in former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Belarus.
Russia has already conquered territory from Ukraine since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. It has also supported a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine and is widely believed to be arming pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region, although it has denied this.
Given Russia’s recent history of aggression against Ukraine, many analysts believe that Russia is now looking for a pretext to invade. Western allies do not take chances, and NATO has put its forces on standby and strengthened its positions in Eastern Europe, where more ships and fighter jets have been sent to the region.
Meanwhile, the United States has put thousands of troops on alert, meaning they are ready to be deployed to the region if the crisis escalates. Britain has sent Ukraine short-range anti-tank missiles and is reportedly considering sending hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe to strengthen NATO forces there, according to Sky News.
On Tuesday, a U.S. plane carrying about 300 Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers and other military hardware landed in Kiev, the U.S. embassy in the capital said via Twitter, adding that the delivery was the third shipment of $ 200 million in assistance approved by the president. Joe Biden. The package includes other anti-tank systems, grenade launchers, ammunition and non-lethal equipment “necessary for Ukraine’s frontline defenders,” according to the US Department of Defense.
Russia, for its part, has repeatedly said it does not plan to invade Ukraine, but has asked NATO for legal assurances that Ukraine will never join the alliance, and wants to see a rollback of NATO missions in Eastern Europe. Among other things, requirements.
The United States officially responded to Russia’s security demands on Wednesday, with the US ambassador to Russia handing over the written response to the Kremlin. The answers were not made public, but the Biden administration has made it clear that some of Russia’s demands, including preventing Ukraine from joining the NATO alliance, are “non-starters”.
Why is Germany reluctant?
Germany is also in a difficult position geopolitically and economically when it comes to Russia – a country with which it has traditionally had strong trade relations. Current tensions have focused on the fate of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which connects Russia and Germany.
The pipeline will increase Russian gas supplies to the EU (it already supplies about 40% of the block’s natural gas) by directing them directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.
Germany’s reluctance to send defensive weapons to Ukraine probably also has its roots in the 20th century, when the scars of World War I and World War II are deeply rooted in Germany’s political conscience, making it an easy target for criticism and possible condemnation if it gets involved. in military confrontations.
Rick Perry, energy secretary to former US President Donald Trump’s administration, told CNBC on Wednesday that he was “very concerned” about what he sees at the Ukrainian border, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “good poker player” . He also criticized Germany “for their lack of determination in relation to Russia.”
“I am very critical of Germany at this particular time because of their lack of determination vis-à-vis Russia. I saw this as the potential for the Germans to potentially be the wheelhouse, if you will, for that energy through Europe – they would work. with the Russians, they would be the country that could control where this gas went, “he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.
He said Germany was “paying a price now for playing football with the Russians and allowing them to end the” Nord Stream 2 pipeline, but he reserved his “harshest criticism” of the Biden administration for “letting Russia complete the Nord Stream. “It’s nothing more than a way of holding Europe hostage,” he said.
The United States, Britain and the European Union, for their part, have signaled their readiness to impose severe sanctions on key sectors and staff in Russia if it invades Ukraine anyway. Biden has even said that his Russian counterpart, Putin, could be sanctioned personally.