German navy chief resigns after saying Putin “deserved respect”

January 23, 2022 - 21:30

The head of the German navy has resigned just one day after saying the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, deserved respect, amid growing allegations by the West of an invasion of Ukraine and tensions between Berlin and Kiev over weapons supplies.

Speaking at a think tank meeting in New Delhi, vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schonbach, who talked in English, said the notion that Russia wanted to invade Ukraine was “nonsense” and that President Putin “deserves respect”

"What he (Putin) really wants is respect," Schoenbach said. "And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost... It is easy to give him the respect he really demands - and probably also deserves" Schoenbach said, calling Russia an old and important country.

Before Schoenbach's handed in his resignation, the German defense ministry criticized his remarks in public.

Less than 24 hours later, Schonbach said he had submitted his resignation “to avoid any more damage being done to the German Navy and above all, to the German federal republic”.

A German defense ministry official said Schonbach would leave his post “with immediate effect”. A ministry statement made it clear the vice-admiral’s comments did not reflect Germany’s position.

the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had summoned Germany’s ambassador to Kiev to protest “the categorical unacceptability” of Schonbach’s comments. 

Kuleba also criticized Germany for its refusal to supply weapons to Kiev, urging Berlin to stop “undermining unity”. 

The German defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, says Berlin would send a field hospital to Ukraine but has once again rejected Kiev’s calls for weapons.

Lambrecht says “weapons deliveries would not be helpful at the moment – that is the consensus within the government”. 

The United States and Britain have pressed ahead with arms sales to Ukraine including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

The ratcheting up of military sales comes at a time of increased tension as U.S.-led NATO forces have been expanding eastwards toward the Russian border.

The latest arms sale by the UK represents a step up from existing British military commitments. Until recently the UK has focused on selling ships and naval equipment to Ukraine, announcing a £1.7bn deal to supply two mine sweepers and jointly build eight ships for its small Black Sea fleet last year.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has told Congress that it gave approval to four fellow NATO members that had purchased U.S.-produced weapons systems to instead send that equipment to Ukraine. 

The Biden administration will also hand over to the Ukrainian government five transport helicopters, among other weaponry.

Last year, the Pentagon announced a $125 million military aid package for Ukraine, including two armed patrol boats. 

The Pentagon said another $150 million in military aid approved by Congress for the 2021 budget year will be provided when the departments of State and Defense are in a position to certify to Congress that Ukraine has made “sufficient progress on key defense reforms this year”. 

Critics accuse the United States and its NATO allies off busily arming Ukraine and engaging in other actions in a reckless strategy that only served to encourage some leaders in Kiev to falsely believe that they have strong Western backing. 

The U.S. Embassy in the Ukrainian capital posted photos on social media of large green-colored crates being unloaded from a cargo plane. The crates held almost 100 tons of “lethal aid”. 

Some analysts have accused NATO of raising tensions to increase their own country’s weapons manufacturing amid a pandemic hit economy. 

Russia has massed it’s own troops on its border with Ukraine for defensive purposes, demanding that it’s neighbor Ukraine never becomes a member of Nato and insisting on other security guarantees all in line with previous agreements struck between Moscow and Washington. 

Last month, Russia sent proposals to the U.S. and NATO for treaties with security guarantees. However, those initiatives were rejected by the West last week following a series of diplomatic negotiations. 

Moscow has consistently rebutted claims made by Western media and senior officials, according to which Russia is allegedly planning to invade its neighbor any day now. The Kremlin has called the idea “fake news,” while raising issues with the fact that some Western nations are sending weapons to Ukraine.

Elsewhere, Russia has called on the British Foreign Ministry to stop engaging in provocations.  

According to a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry who spoke to the country’s state news agency, the misinformation campaign by the British Foreign Office is further evidence that these are the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine

Moscow has called on the UK’s Foreign Office to stop engaging in provocations. That is how the Russian Foreign Ministry reacted to a recent statement by its British counterparts about plans Moscow is allegedly making regarding Ukraine.

"The misinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is another evidence that these are the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine. We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense and focus on studying the history of the Tatar-Mongol yoke”, the Russian official said. 

Earlier, Britain accused Russia of a shadowy plot to install a pro-Kremlin government in Kiev alleging that Moscow is weighing up a further invasion of Ukraine.

In a move that even Britain media described as “highly unusual” and claimed to be based on specially declassified intelligence, the UK Foreign Office alleged that a former Ukrainian MP (Yevgeny Murayev) was "being considered as a potential candidate" as a new leader in what would be a significant escalation of the crisis.

The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office made the announcement in a brief statement, but it failed to elaborate further on how this plan would be achieved or where the information was obtained from. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is the current leader of Ukraine. He would like his country to join the European Union and become a member of the NATO alliance.

In an interview with British media, Alexander Pavlyuk, a lieutenant-general in the Ukrainian army, has claimed Russia could invade Ukraine on February 20, a day that coincides with the closing ceremony of 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Pavlyuk described it as a “date that concerns us”, the claim was made without any evidence to back it up. 

A similar claim and date was reported by the American news outlet Bloomberg, which even alleged the Chinese President had told his Russian counterpart to put off any such plans. 

The allegation is strange as it would essentially mean that Russia would be spoiling the largest global sporting event hosted by one of (if not the strongest) of Russian allies.

Should Kiev and its Western allies’ “invasion” claims ever materialize, the alleged invasion date would put a dampener on the whole Beijing Winter Olympics; something Chinese authorities have been working tirelessly on. 

The Chinese Embassy in Russia has denounced the Bloomberg report, calling it “fake” news and also a “provocation.”

According to Russia, the West is to blame for the escalation in tensions along the border with neighboring Ukraine, as its weapons shipments to Kiev, and NATO’s continued eastward troop expansion along with military exercises only encourages Kiev to look for a military solution in Donetsk and Lugansk. 

Analysts argue Russia has every right to amass troops along its own borders should it wish to do so and have drawn comparisons to a scenario if Russia or China beefs up its military presence in Mexico or Canada and what the U.S. response would be then?

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