https://www.dw.com-Germany’s foreign minister told DW that Moscow’s justification for focusing on territory beyond the Donbas does not stack up. She also said Berlin must not leave itself open to blackmail from other states.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday rejected Russia’s claim that Western weapons deliveries played a part in Moscow’s decision to expand its military objectives in Ukraine.
In a wide-ranging interview with DW in Hannover, Baerbock said Moscow kept changing its argument, adding that it was just “new propaganda from the Russian side.”
Earlier Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow’s military objectives in Ukraine now went beyond the Donbas.
Rather than focusing on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Russian-backed separatists have been waging an insurgency since 2014, he said Moscow had also set its sights on the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
He added that Russia’s objectives would expand further if the West keeps delivering long-range weapons such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Kyiv.
“Russia is using every time a different argument. This time it is because of the military support, they are saying. But they have been attacking Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine before,” Baerbock said.
After launching its invasion on February 24, Russia attacked the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other cities, before refocusing its offensive on the eastern Donbas region. At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any intention of occupying Ukrainian territories, saying his aim was to demilitarize and “denazify” the country.
‘Not a race’ on weapons supply
Baerbock said Germany would “support Ukraine not only with solidarity, not only by mentioning every day that this is a fundamental breach of international law by Russia, but also with military support, so they can self-defend their country, their territory.”
Baerbock defended Germany’s supply of weapons to Ukraine, with a recent study putting Europe’s largest economy in sixth place when it comes to weapons provision to Kyiv.
“This is not a race of who’s in which place in a ranking,” she said. “This is about common support from the whole international community from NATO member states to support Ukraine.”
The minister added that Germany and the Netherlands were delivering howitzers, others ammunition and air missile defense systems “hopefully” by the end of summer.
Germany must not be blackmailed
Thousands of people have died and millions have been displaced since Russia invaded Ukraine five months ago. The war has also raised fears about food and energy supply, with grain exports from Ukraine largely blocked, and Russia reducing gas deliveries to Europe.
European countries are seeking to reduce their dependence on Russian energy amid concerns that Moscow could cut off gas deliveries altogether. On Wednesday, the European Commission accused Russia of “blackmail” and urged EU countries to reduce demand for natural gas by 15% over the coming months.
Baerbock said Germany needed to avoid a repeat of the situation Europe now finds itself in — being dependent on an aggressor for gas supply.
When asked about the government’s upcoming China strategy, Baerbock said Berlin was looking “very intensively” at its dependencies on Beijing.
“Because it’s a system rival, we have to make clear that nobody can blackmail us as we were with regard to our dependency to Russia. And this is the baseline for our new China strategy — working together where we can work together, but having also a sovereign European strategy of independence in critical infrastructure, and especially in line with our foreign policy.”
The interview was conducted by Richard Walker. Copy written by DW staff.