Germany Shows Lack of Resolve Against Russian Threats - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Germany Shows Lack of Resolve Against Russian Threats
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Fears are rising that Germany is failing to do enough to prevent a Russian invasion and failing to aid Ukraine in the case of an attack amid warnings from the White House that Russian troops could invade at any time. 

U.S. officials say there is evidence Russia is planning to overthrow Ukraine’s government and take Kyiv, CNN reported Tuesday. Russia is also deploying troops into Belarus — a development that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday shows Russia “is making moves that would suggest that they have plans to invade.”

German officials have voiced conflicting stances on whether or not they would impose harsh sanctions on Russia — a hesitancy likely motivated by a fear of harming their own economy. That lack of clarity likely empowers Moscow to feel as though it can get away with attacking Ukraine without suffering a crippling economic blow. 

Last week, Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, and the Social Democratic Party’s secretary-general, Kevin Kühnert, said the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should not be linked to the tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The pipeline can transfer natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Those assertions signaled that Germany isn’t willing to risk the economic damage that would result from cutting off Nord Stream 2. That perception could lead Russia to believe it could keep Nord Stream and still invade Ukraine. 

Those concerns were somewhat alleviated Tuesday when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signaled that Germany may consider halting the pipeline if Russia attacks.

When asked by a reporter about Nord Stream 2, Scholz said it was “clear that there will be a high price to pay and that everything will have to be discussed should there be a military intervention in Ukraine.”

Scholz’s threat, however, allowed it to remain unclear whether or not Germany would halt the pipeline. Germany is highly dependent on Russian oil, in part because it closed down all of its nuclear power plants over environmentalist fears. Europe is also experiencing an energy crisis that makes it even more reliant on Russian energy. 

In December, Scholz called Nord Stream 2 a “private economy project,” which implied that it should not be used as a cudgel to threaten Russia. Until Tuesday, he refused to entertain cutting off Nord Stream 2. 

On Monday, more doubts were raised about Germany’s willingness to put in place harsh sanctions against Russia when a German newspaper, Handelsblatt, reported that German officials said Western governments were no longer considering cutting off Russian banks from the Swift international payments system as part of a sanctions package. 

Swift is central to the international payments system, and thus would be the strongest economic sanction that could be used to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Handelsblatt’s report said there were concerns that cutting Russia off from Swift would endanger Western markets. 

A German source told Reuters on the Handelsblatt report, “We can’t confirm. It is not decided yet,” while the White House National Security Council said, “No option is off the table. We continue consulting very closely with European counterparts on severe consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine.”

If German officials were leaking to the press that cutting Russia off from Swift is off the table, that would suggest that Germany is backing down from imposing major sanctions on Russia in order to protect its own economy. Their response, “We can’t confirm,” does not inspire confidence that Germany will hold the line in threatening major sanctions against Russia. 

On Tuesday, Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, gave some voice to German intentions to inflict economic pain on Russia in the event of an attack, saying that Germany has no other option but to defend the common rules of Europe, “even if this means paying a high economic price.”

On top of Germany’s hesitancy to threaten economic sanctions against Russia that would also affect their own economy, Berlin is still refusing to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons.

Germany has declined to provide weapons to Ukraine for years. In June, Germany’s foreign minister at the time, Heiko Maas, rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for arms support. “I am convinced that the conflict can only be solved by political channels, and that should be clear to all involved,” Maas said. “This remains the guiding principle of our engagement, and it won’t change — weapons deliveries don’t help in this.” 

“Germany can do more,” Zelensky said in response. 

In December, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, alleged that Germany had blocked its supply of weapons through NATO. 

“They are still building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and at the same time blocking our defensive weapons. It is very unfair,” Reznikov told the Financial Times

Reznikov said that Germany had vetoed Ukraine’s purchase of anti-drone rifles and anti-sniper systems, but later backtracked and allowed Ukraine to purchase anti-drone rifles after deeming those arms to be non-lethal. 

Baerbock reiterated Monday that Germany would not supply weapons to Ukraine, saying that Germany has a “historical responsibility” not to send weapons to conflict zones. Her position follows the German government’s insistence that it should not help supply arms and instead should follow a pacifist path after starting the last two world wars. 

Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, said this weekend that the Ukrainian people were “extremely disappointed” with Germany’s refusal to provide arms. 

He added that he found the weapons ban “very frustrating and bitter … the world is currently facing the greatest danger of a huge war in the middle of Europe, the worst since 1945.” 

Notably, German companies became embroiled in controversy following the invasion of Crimea for seeking to train Russian troops. The defense contractor Rheinmetall signed a $140 million contract in 2011 to build a combat training center in southwest Russia that would train 30,000 Russian troops a year. 

The German defense companies’ collaboration with the Russian government is part of a larger phenomenon of friendly relations between Germany and Russia. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel was known for her close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for instance. 

On Friday, over 40 German foreign policy experts published an open letter asking Germany to depart from its current strategy of pursuing normal relations with Russia and instead resist Putin’s expansionist goals. 

Speaking of Russia’s invasion of multiple countries, the letter says, “As the largest European economic power, Germany has viewed these goings-on for more than three decades critically, but mostly passively.”

The letter calls Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 the “logical consequence” of a 20-year “policy passivity with respect to Russian neo-imperialism,” and says that Nord Stream 1 “prepared the way” for the invasion.

The authors conclude the article by arguing that continued inaction will encourage Russia to engage in “further escapades.”

While Germany refuses to provide arms to Ukraine, other NATO members are stepping up to do so. 

The U.K. is sending Ukraine light anti-armor defensive weapon systems, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday. Onlookers noticed that British planes delivering military aid to Ukraine were avoiding German airspace, driving more fears that Germany is disengaged from resisting Putin. 

In addition, Canada deployed a small number of special forces to Ukraine to dissuade Putin from invading, Canada’s Global News reported

The Biden administration, meanwhile, delivered $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in 2021, but held off on sending $200 million more in prepared aid in an attempt to appease Putin. That decision drew the ire of a bipartisan group of lawmakers as well as appeals from Ukraine to send the assistance. 

“For too long, the West has declined to take Putin’s ambitions seriously and responded with delay, indecision, and weakness,” said Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in December while asking for the West to send additional military aid. “It is time to meet them with strength.”

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