German Navy chief resigns after his New Delhi remarks on Putin in Ukraine

German Navy chief resigns after his New Delhi remarks on Putin in Ukraine


In a diplomatic earthquake, German Navy chief VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned on Saturday after calling in New Delhi for a rapprochement with Russian President Putin and saying Ukraine could not become a NATO member.

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In a diplomatic earthquake, German Navy chief VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned on Saturday after calling in New Delhi for a rapprochement with Russian President Putin and saying Ukraine could not become a NATO member.

His comments contradicted the current narrative from Europe amid the deteriorating situation in Eastern Europe and the build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.

Speaking to think tank IDSA on Friday, he said: “Does Russia really want a small and tiny strip of Ukrainian soil to integrate the country? No, that’s nonsense. Putin is probably pressuring because he knows he can, and he’s split on EU opinion. What he really wants is respect.”

Before resigning, he called his statements in Delhi a “mistake”. Meanwhile, the German Navy Chief of Staff’s Twitter biography has been updated to “currently vacant” and the picture of VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach has been removed.

The German Defense Ministry quickly dismissed the comments. The German daily BILD quoted the Federal Ministry of Defense as saying: “The statements in no way correspond to the position of the Ministry of Defense in terms of content or choice of words. Admiral Schönbach will be given the opportunity to make a statement to the Inspector General.”

And the consequences of the comments in the Ukrainian capital Kiev were not only seen in Berlin. The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine has summoned the German envoy to the country because of the statements made by the naval chief.

Commenting in Delhi, the head of the German Navy explained that good relations with Russia are needed to contain China and Crimea, which are now being lost. He declared: “Even we India, Germany, we need Russia, we need Russia against China…Having this big country, even if it is not a democracy, as a bilateral partner gives them a chance. It’s easy and it keeps Russia away from China because China needs resources from Russia.”

Russia does not want NATO to reach its borders and countries like Ukraine to join. She wants “security guarantees” from the West and NATO that Ukraine will not join the security bloc.

The number of talks this month between Russia and the United States has yielded no result. The comments in Delhi come even as the German naval chief’s visit aimed to show Berlin’s increased involvement in the Indo-Pacific but ended in his resignation.

The German naval chief’s visit also coincides with a visit by the German frigate Bayern, which calls at Mumbai as part of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

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