German Navy Chief Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach has raised some eyebrows by claiming that it would not be “smart” to have Georgia as a member of NATO.
Asked about NATO’s eastward enlargement in New Delhi at the event hosted by IDSA think-tank (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses) yesterday, the German Naval Chief asserted “as long as the country has the sovereignty and decides to join NATO and meets all requirements to be a member…. I would say yes.”
But he said “Ukraine, of course, cannot meet the requirements because it’s occupied, at least [in] the Donbas region by the Russian army or by what they call militias.”
The German Vice Admiral then continued: “Take other countries like Georgia. Georgia is willing to become a member [of NATO]. Do they meet requirements? Yes, yes, they do. Is it smart to have them as a member? No, it’s not, no it’s not.”
Making a comparison with the Alliance inviting the Baltic nations, he said “with the Baltic states — Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia — [joining NATO] made sense, because they were sovereign countries before Russia occupied them and integrated them into the Soviet Union.”
Further Controversial Remarks
The German Navy Chief argued that Russia — that according to Western leaders is getting ready to (re)invade Ukraine — is not actually seeking to absorb Ukrainian territories, but demanding “respect.”
“Does Russia really want a small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil to integrate into the country? No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it and he splits European Union opinion. But what he really wants is respect,” claimed the Vice Admiral.
“And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost,” Vice Admiral Schönbach went on, adding that “it is even easy to give him the respect he really demands and probably also deserves.”
He further argued that “Russia is an old country, Russia is an important country. Even we, India, Germany need Russia, because we need Russia against China…”
“From my perspective, I’m a very radical Roman Catholic, I believe in God, and I believe in Christianity, and there we have a Christian country, even Putin says he’s an atheist but it does not matter… Having this big country, even if it’s not a democracy, at our side, as a bilateral partner… is easy and keeps Russia away from China, because China needs resources of Russia,” Schönbach asserted.
Albeit recognizing the need to address Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the German Navy Chief also suggested that Kyiv would never regain control of Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, prompting criticism from the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.
Following the outcry over his remarks, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach apologized for his “rush” comments today. In his Twitter post, the Navy Chief said his statements conveyed his personal opinion, not a position of the German Federal Ministry of Defense.
The German Defense Ministry reportedly told Bild, Berlin-based daily newspaper, that “in terms of content and choice of words, the statements in no way correspond to the position of the [Ministry]. Admiral Schönbach is given the opportunity to make a statement to the Inspector General.”