Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned as the chief of the German Navy due to his comments on the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Schönbach's comments, made during a discussion on Germany's Indo Pacific Strategy at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), New Delhi, triggered a diplomatic row.
Announcing his resignation on Twitter, Vice Admiral Schönbach said, "My security policy statements in a talk show at a think tank in India gave my personal opinion for that moment on the spot. They do not correspond in any way to the official position of the German Department of Defence."
Vice Admiral Schönbach added that he was misjudged in the situation and shouldn't have made the comments and resigned to avoid further damage.
What Did Vice Admiral Schönbach Say?
After delivering his address on Germany's Indo Pacific Strategy, Vice Admiral Schönbach took part in a Q&A session where he answered many geo-political questions from a German perspective.
Answering a question on NATO's expansion towards the east, Vice Admiral Schönbach stated that even though Ukraine and Georgia are eligible to join the NATO, it is not the smart move.
"The Crimean Peninsula is gone. It's never coming back. This is a fact. Is Russia really interested in a small tiny strip of Ukraine soil to integrate into their country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he can do it, and he knows he splits us, he splits the European Union," Vice Admiral Schönbach said.
"But what he really wants is respect. He wants, on eye-level, respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low-cost, even no-cost. So if I was asked, it is easy to give him the respect he demands, and probably deserves," he added.
"Russia is an important country. Even we, India and Germany, need Russia. Because we need Russia against China. From my Roman Catholic perspective, Russia is Christian country even though Putin is an atheist. I think having this big country, even if it is not a democracy at all, as a bilateral partner... keeps Russia away from China," Vice Admiral Schönbach said.
Vice Admiral Schönbach's response can be watched in the video below from the 1:05:00 hour mark.
What Is Happening In Ukraine?
The United States and NATO say that 1,00,000 Russian troops have amassed at the Ukranian border ahead of a possible invasion.
The US has moved to provide $200 million military aid to Ukraine with the UK sending a small troop of soldiers along with short-range anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
The Washington Post reported in December 2021 of a US intelligence warning that Russia could launch an invasion into Ukraine in early 2022 with 100 battalion tactical groups.
The Post reported that satellite photos shows Russian forces massing in four locations along the border.
Russia has maintained that it has no plans to invade Ukraine stating that the troop movements reflect its efforts to modernise its army.
Russia's moves follow President Vladimir Putin's demands that the NATO should not be expanded to include Ukraine and Georgia as well as reducing military activity near the Russian border.
Putin has demanded "precise legal, judicial guarantees because our Western colleagues have failed to deliver on verbal commitments they made".
After a 90-minute bilateral meeting Friday in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine would be "met with a severe and a united response".
How Did Ukraine Respond To Vice Admiral Schönbach's Comments?
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed his country's dissapointment stating that the "statements are disappointing and run counter to its support and effort."
"Recent statements by Germany about the impossibility of transferring defense weapons to Ukraine, in particular due to permission to third parties, the futility of returning Crimea, hesitations to disconnect Russia from SWIFT - do not correspond to the level of our relations and the current security situation," he tweeted.
"Today, the unity of the West with Russia is more important than ever. To achieve it and deter the Russian Federation, we are all working together. German partners must stop such words and actions to undermine unity and encourage Vladimir Putin to a new attack on Ukraine.
"Ukraine is grateful to Germany for its support since 2014, as well as for its diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. But Germany's current statements are disappointing and run counter to this support and effort," Kuleba added.