A short while ago, Russian troops were standing on the Ukrainian border. Greens leader Habeck suggests delivering weapons to the country – for self-defense. Some consider this naive.
Green leader Robert Habeck has spoken out in favor of arms deliveries to Ukraine – and has thus received sharp criticism, also from within his own ranks. “In my opinion, weapons for defense and self-defense can hardly be denied to Ukraine,” said the chairman of the Greens during a visit to Ukraine on Deutschlandfunk. Demands from Ukraine for arms deliveries are justified.
In eastern Ukraine, there has been a conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government troops for seven years, in which the UN estimates that more than 13,000 people have been killed. After a worsening this spring, the Ukrainian government demanded arms deliveries from the west.
Habeck said, of course, the Greens are a party that comes from pacifism. “But if you deal a little with this conflict, you can at least not deny help for self-help, for defense.” The chairman of the Greens is currently traveling to Ukraine at the invitation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyj. After meeting Zelenskyj in the capital Kiev, he traveled on to Dnipro on Monday. From there he also wanted to visit the front line.
Mützenich: Habeck’s statements are “counterproductive and dangerous”
In the SPD, Habeck’s statements met with sharp criticism. “Ukraine’s demand to deliver so-called defensive weapons is frivolous and underlines once again how insincere and incapable of governing the Greens are at the moment,” said SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich to “Spiegel”. Habeck misunderstood the complex crisis management in the region, “while his party wants to end the delivery of weapons to EU states in areas of tension in the election manifesto,” criticized Mützenich. Habeck is either naive or trying to get a new image, according to the SPD parliamentary group leader.
Rolf Mützenich, SPD parliamentary group leader: He rejects Habeck’s position. (Source: Christian Spicker / imago images)
Against the background of sustained efforts to detente by the OSCE and the Normandy format as well as the intensive preparation of a Russian-American summit, the statements of the Greens chairman are “counterproductive and dangerous”.
Criticism – also from within our own ranks
The German government has no interest in further heating up the conflict in eastern Ukraine. “An armament in Ukraine would use Russia as a pretext for its own troops in the Crimea, in eastern Ukraine and on the Russian-Ukrainian border,” said CDU foreign politician Jürgen Hardt (CDU) to the RND. Left-wing foreign politician Sevim Dagdelen sees it similarly. She fears that arms deliveries to Ukraine will further escalate the conflict. With his demand, Habeck is “falling behind the federal government and deliberately undermining the ban on arms exports to crisis and conflict areas”.
And Habeck’s attitude also meets with opposition in his own ranks. “I still think it’s right that the federal government does not deliver weapons to war zones,” said arms expert Katja Keul to the editorial network Germany (RND). The fact that someone in the Greens opposes a substantive position of the party leadership had hardly happened in the last few months. Unity has been the top priority since Habeck and Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock have led the party.
With his statement, Habeck also contradicts the current arms export guidelines of the federal government, which in their original version were an achievement of the red-green government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. These prohibit the approval of arms deliveries to countries “that are involved in armed conflict or where one is threatened”.
Habeck’s proposal contradicts the election platform
There have been hardly any arms deliveries to Ukraine in recent years. In 2018 and 2019, the federal government allowed exports for 2.1 million euros each – mainly hunting and sporting weapons. In 2019, this corresponded to just 0.03 percent of all export permits issued by the federal government worth more than eight billion euros.
The Greens traditionally advocate a restrictive arms export policy. The party leadership’s draft for the election manifesto states that the Greens wanted to end “European arms exports to war and crisis areas” with restrictive export controls. Habeck’s advance is seen all the more critically.