New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: German  Navy chief’s sympathetic comments for Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses on Friday stoked political earthquake in Berlin. The quake’s tremors were felt along incredibly sensitive Russia-Ukraine border which couldn’t subside even after former German Navy Chief Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned with an unconditional apology.

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What did former German Navy chief say?

Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach was filmed at New Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, saying that Vladimir Putin should be given the “respect he probably deserves” and claiming that Crimea would never be returned to Ukraine.

"What he (Putin) really wants is respect," he had 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.”

Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach further had further said that Ukraine will never regain the control of Crimea and meet the criterion for NATO membership despite its willingness to do so.

Why German Navy chief resigned?

Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach’s comments reportedly showed sympathy towards Russian policies at a time when NATO fears an “imminent” Russian invasion in Ukraine. Russia has amassed over one lakh troops along its border with Ukraine to demand departure of NATO troops from various former Soviet Republics in East Europe.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry had summoned Germany’s ambassador to Kyiv to protest Vice Admiral’s comments, expressing “disappointment”.

Furthermore, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter to suggest that the statement run counter to the support that Germany has provided Ukraine with since 2014.

“German partners must stop such words and actions to undermine unity and encourage Vladimir Putin to a new attack on Ukraine,” he said.

Soon, Schönbach said in a statement that he had asked the Defence Minister to relieve him of his duties as German navy chief “with immediate effect”.

“The ill-considered remarks I made in India about security and military policy are an increasing burden on my office,” he said. “In order to avert further damage to the German navy, the Bundeswehr and above all the Federal Republic of Germany, I consider this step advisable.”

German Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, had accepted his resignation.

Reaction in Germany

The reaction to Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach’s comments was furious in Berlin, with a senior figure in ruling alliance calling it “more than an embarrassment”.

“Utterly unacceptable. There must be consequences! But this is NOT the position of the German foreign ministry,”  Reinhard Bütikofer of German Green Party was quoted as saying by Financial Times.

Consequences on Ukraine-Russia conflict

Germany is a key NATO member in Europe. While in principle, the German support to Ukraine after the events leading to Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, has flourished. In action, Ukraine sees the latest comments as one among many counter-productive steps by Germany with respect to its claims of territorial sovereignty at the time when armed conflict with Russia appears imminent.

Earlier, Germany had blocked weaponry supply to Ukraine, a move that took place after Berlin vetoed Ukraine’s purchase of anti-drone rifles and anti-sniper systems through NATO Support and Procurement Agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed a “military-technical response” if NATO led by the US rejects his security demands. These include a call for NATO to remove all its forces from Bulgaria, Romania and former Soviet Republics in East Europe that joined NATO after 1997, a move that the NATO is not ready to put forward.

Posted By: Mukul Sharma