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UKRAINE

German army ‘limited’ in Russia response, says commander

Germany's army can do little to support the response to the Russian invasion, its chief said said Thursday, as the country's ex-defence minister admitted that Berlin committed a "historical failure" in not bolstering itself militarily.

Alfons Mais
Land army chief Alfons Mais has pushed for the expansion of the German military. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was defence minister in Angela Merkel’s cabinet said Germany had forgotten lessons from the past that “negotiation always comes first, but we have to be militarily strong enough to make non-negotiation not an option for the other side”.

“I’m so angry at ourselves for our historical failure. After Georgia, Crimea, and Donbas, we have not prepared anything that would have really deterred Putin,” admitted Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to incursions carried out by Russia while Merkel was in power.

Her outburst on Twitter came as the chief of the German land army, Alfons Mais, wrote on a post on the social network LinkedIn that “the options we can offer to politicians to support (NATO) are extremely limited.”

The Bundeswehr “is more or less bare,” he wrote.

Western allies had “seen it coming and were not in the position to come through with our arguments, to draw the lessons from the annexation of Crimea and to implement them,” the commander said.

“NATO territory is not directly threatened yet, even if our partners in the east feel the constantly growing pressure,” he said.

Mais said it was high time to bolster the army.

READ ALSO: Ukrainians in Europe: How will Russia’s invasion and the war impact your lives?

“When if not now is the time to … rebuild, otherwise we will not be able to carry out our constitutional mission or our obligations to our allies with any prospect of success,” Mais said.

NATO partners will hold a virtual summit Friday to discuss their response.

Around 550 German soldiers are stationed in Lithuania as part of a NATO mission and the government has pledged up to 350 additional troop reinforcements.

Germany was criticised in the build-up to the invasion for refusing to deliver lethal weapons into the crisis zone, sending instead 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.

The weapons export policy is a long-standing principle, which has its roots in the war of aggression led by the Nazis during World War II.

Instead, Germany has provided the Ukraine with upwards of two billion euros ($2.2 billion) in financial support over the last eight years.

In January, the head of the German navy, Kay-Achim Schoenbach, stepped down following his remark made at an Indian think-tank that the Russian President Vladimir Putin “is to be respected”.

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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