Germany has come under growing criticism for its cautious policy toward Russia, after its naval chief sparked a diplomatic row with comments on Ukraine and Crimea.
Ukraine’s ambassador Andrij Melnyk described the naval chief’s comments as an example of “German arrogance and megalomania,” and called for a drastic change in the German government’s foreign policy.
“Though Ukraine welcomes the timely resignation of the Inspector of Navy Kay-Achim Schoenbach, this step is not sufficient to restore full trust in German politics. The Government has to change its course towards Kyiv,” he said on Twitter on Sunday.
Vice Admiral Kai-Achim Schoenbach sparked international controversy over the weekend after his controversial comments made during a think-tank meeting, where he said Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin deserves respect.
Schoenbach claimed that Ukraine would never regain Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
After strong protest from Ukraine, and criticism from several NATO allies, German Defense Ministry announced late Saturday that Schoenbach resigned from his post with immediate effect.
The latest controversy exposed deep differences within the NATO alliance about how to deter Russia from further aggression against Ukraine.
Germany, which has long pursued a cautious policy toward Moscow, remains reluctant to block the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, despite repeated calls from the US and NATO’s eastern members to take a harsher stance with Russia.
The German government also opposed sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, arguing that it would escalate military tensions and undermine efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Germany turned down a recent request by NATO ally Estonia to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported to Ukraine.
Russia recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, prompting fears that Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.
Moscow has denied it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. It has, instead, issued a list of security demands, including Ukraine not joining NATO, to calm the existing tensions.