Berlin (dpa) – After green leader Robert Habeck pushed for arms transfers to Ukraine, the federal government reiterated its no.
“We have a restrictive and responsible arms export policy and we do not issue permits for weapons of war with regard to Ukraine,” said government spokesman Steffen Seibert in Berlin on Wednesday. “I can only speak on behalf of this federal government in this parliamentary term – and that will not change.” A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he was not aware of pending requests from Ukraine for arms transfers.
The day before, shortly before a visit to the front line in Eastern Ukraine, Habeck had spoken out in favor of arms deliveries. “In my opinion, Ukraine can hardly be denied defense and self-defense weapons, defensive weapons,” he told Deutschlandfunk. Politicians of the Union, the SPD and the left strongly criticized Habeck for this. Individual Green MPs also distanced themselves from their party chairman.
German arms control does not distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons. It only distinguishes between weapons of war, other armaments such as armored vehicles or military transport aircraft, and so-called dual-use goods, which can be used for both military and civil purposes.
After the criticism of his statement, Habeck had specified his demand and cited as examples of his demand “night vision devices, reconnaissance equipment, artillery clearance, Medevacs (medical transport aircraft)”. But these are not weapons.
In principle, Habeck defended his advance. “Ukraine isn’t just fighting for itself here, it’s also defending the security of Europe,” Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock’s co-party leader told Deutschlandfunk. “Ukraine feels left alone in terms of security policy, and it is left alone.” 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.”
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.
According to Ukrainian ambassador Andrii Melnyk, his country’s wish list includes anti-aircraft guns, defense systems off the coasts of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea, corvettes, speedboats and submarines. In recent years, however, the federal government has only approved the export of hunting and sporting weapons to Ukraine. Melnyk therefore welcomed Habeck’s advance and called on the German government to give up the refusal of arms exports. With former party chairman Jürgen Trittin, another Green distanced himself from Habeck’s statement. “Arms exports to Ukraine would violate our principle that we do not export weapons to war zones,” he told the editorial network Germany.