Mariupol / Berlin (dpa) – Green leader Robert Habeck has spoken out in favor of arms transfers to Ukraine and was therefore widely rejected.
There was also criticism from within the ranks of Habeck’s demand shortly before a visit to the front line between the Ukrainian government forces and the pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country. He told Deutschlandfunk: “In my opinion, weapons for defense, self-defense and defensive weapons can hardly be refused to Ukraine.” He had previously spoken to President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev.
The Greens have traditionally advocated a restrictive arms export policy. The party leadership’s draft election manifesto states that the Greens wanted to end “European arms exports to war and crisis areas with restrictive export controls.”
Ukraine in conflict for a long time
There is no doubt that Ukraine is, at least in part, a crisis area. In eastern Ukraine, there has been a conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces for seven years, with the UN estimating that more than 13,000 people have died. After a deterioration this spring, the Ukrainian government demanded supplies of arms from the west.
Habeck stressed that the Greens are, of course, a party that stems from pacifism. “But if you deal with this conflict a little bit, you can’t at least refuse help for self-help, for defense.”
Opposite position of the party leadership
However, he encounters contradictions with this attitude in his own ranks. “I still think it is correct that the federal government does not supply weapons to war zones,” arms expert Katja Keul told the editorial network Germany (RND / Tuesday). The fact that someone in the Greens opposed a substantive position of the party leadership had hardly happened in recent months. Unity has been the top priority since Habeck and Chancellor-candidate Annalena Baerbock led the party.
Habeck’s statement also contradicts the federal government’s current arms export guidelines, which in their original version were a feat of the red-green government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. These prohibit the approval of arms transfers to countries “involved in an armed conflict or where one is under threat”.
Hardly any arms deliveries from Germany
As a result, there have been hardly any arms transfers to Ukraine in recent years. In 2018 and 2019, the federal government allowed exports of 2.1 million euros each, mainly hunting and sporting weapons. In 2019, this amounted to just 0.03 percent of all federal government-issued export licenses worth more than eight billion euros.
This is also because the German government has no interest in further stirring up the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. “A rearmament in Ukraine would use Russia as a pretext for its own forces in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and the Russian-Ukrainian border,” CDU foreign politician Jürgen Hardt (CDU) told the RND.
Sharp criticism also came from the SPD. “The demand to supply so-called defensive weapons to Ukraine is frivolous and underscores once again how little capable and disingenuous the Greens are currently acting,” Group Chairman Rolf Mützenich told “Spiegel”. Habeck has misunderstood the complex crisis management in the region and the internal situation in Ukraine.
Left-wing foreign policy expert Sevim Dagdelen said arms transfers to Ukraine would further escalate the conflict. “With demand for arms deliveries to Ukraine, Green leader Robert Habeck is falling behind the German government and deliberately undermining the ban on arms exports to crisis and conflict areas,” she said.
Unlike Germany, the US is already supplying military equipment to Ukraine. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had promised further exports after the latest escalation. Moscow, on the other hand, warns against arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Habeck visited the front line in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday wearing a protective vest and steel helmet. He had already traveled from Kiev to Dnipro on Monday. On Tuesday morning, the helicopter left from there to Mariupol, from where it traveled on to the front. Among other things, he visited the destroyed village of Schyrokyne, which has been deserted since 2015.