German Navy chief VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach (right) at the IDSA event Photograph:( WION )
Russian President Putin will be going to China in February to hold summit-level talks
The German Navy chief VAdm Kay-Achim Schönbach in Delhi has batted for good ties with Russia to rein in China in a remark that goes against the present narrative coming from Europe amid the deteriorating situation in eastern Europe.
Speaking at think-tank IDSA, he said, "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 EU opinion. What he really wants is respect. "
He added, "He wants high-level respect and my God giving some respect is low cost, even no cost. If I was asked, it's easy to give him the respect he really demands and probably also deserves. Russia is an old country, Russia is important."
Last week saw hectic diplomacy with Russian and American foreign ministers meeting in Geneva to defuse the ongoing crisis in eastern Europe. While the West has been talking about the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has dismissed it.
German Navy chief explained that, "even we India, Germany, we need Russia, We need Russia against China....having this big country, even if it's not a democracy, as a bilateral partner, giving them a chance. It's easy and keeps Russia away from China because China needs resources of Russia".
Russia and China have a close partnership. Russian President Putin will be going to China in February to hold summit-level talks at the start of the controversial Beijing Winter Olympics, diplomatically boycotted by many western countries. A western pushback is seen pushing Moscow closer to Beijing even as Chinese aggressiveness in the region increases.
Asked about NATO's westward expansion, he said, "as long as the country has the sovereignty decides to join NATO and meets all requirements to be a member.... I would say yes" but clearly stated that, "Ukraine of course cannot meet the requirements because it's occupied in the Donbas region by the Russian Army or by what they call as militias".
Adding further he said,"Take other countries like Georgia. Georgia is willing to be a member....do they meet the requirements, yes, they do. Is it smart to have them as a member, no it's not." but he stressed that Baltic states like Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and countries like Sweden and Finland can become members according to "sovereign decision".
Russia doesn't want NATO to reach its borders with countries like Ukraine joining it. It wants "security guarantees" from the West and NATO that Ukraine doesn't join the security block. A number of talks this month between Russia and the US haven't yielded any results.
The German Navy chief expressed concern over China especially when it comes to debt-related problems it is has been causing in Africa. The German naval chief citing Chinese attempts at technology theft gave the example of how Kuka robotics, a German company was taken over by a Chinese company and there "whole technology was gone" and "China is not paying back".
Recalling German politicians view of China after many such developments, he said that they believe that "China is not that nice a country we probably thought off".
He talked about how the former German Chancellor was in "favour of China " and that the country is buying robotics but not "realising what this means to other countries". He gave parallels of the German understanding pointing that, "I am well aware when Germany even gives technology to Pakistan, it goes one by one through Pakistan in direction of India".
The visit of the German Navy chief to Delhi coincides with the visit of German frigate “Bayern” making a port call in Mumbai.
Bayern made a port call as part of its seven-month deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. The visit marks the last stop of the frigate’s deployment which saw German naval presence in the region after a decade. The frigate has been in the Indo-Pacific region since August last year on a patrol and training mission and has made port calls in various countries of the region.