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"Putin is pulling out all the stops to wear down the 'soft' Europeans"


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"Putin is pulling out all the stops to wear down the 'soft' Europeans"

WORLD: Ms. Strack-Zimmermann, you have now visited Ukraine for the second time since the outbreak of war. What is your most important finding?

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP): I was in Lviv in western Ukraine for the first time in April. This time I drove with Ukrainian soldiers to Chernobyl in the north on the Belarusian border. On the second day in Kyiv, I held talks with, among others, Defense Minister Reznikov, Deputy Foreign Minister and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, my colleague, the Chairman of the Defense Committee, and President Zelensky's chief adviser. I was very pleased to have met Vitali Klitschko and members of the Rada for a discussion. The people here are extremely grateful to Germany for the supply of military material, which they consistently described as "excellent". Whether the self-propelled howitzers, the rocket launchers, the cheetah or soon Iris-T. That is greatly appreciated. Ultimately, however, it is important for them to continue to obtain more heavy weapons in the future, because the Ukrainian army needs significantly more to successfully combat Russian positions - including, not surprisingly, the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, but even more preferably the Leopard 2.

WORLD: How is this wish specifically justified?

Strack-Zimmermann: The challenge is currently in southern Ukraine. This also has to do with the topography of the area there. There is much more agricultural land than forest, and therefore, in addition to artillery, main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers are important to push back the Russians in this open landscape. In addition to the delivery of material, the desire is also to train the soldiers on the tanks. For example, in Latvia, I was told, the Spanish could train the Ukrainian forces on the Leopard 2. This offer is available. But Germany would have to approve that, and that hasn't happened to date.

WORLD: You were in the Rada and got a lot of applause there. For what you have achieved – or for promoting martens and leopards in Berlin?

Strack-Zimmermann: In any case, I was completely surprised, which doesn't happen often. The President of the Rada introduced me, and then there was applause. I interpret it like this: It was thanks that I firmly believe that Ukraine's territorial integrity is untouchable and that Germany must do everything possible to stand by Ukraine and assume a leadership role in Europe should.

WORLD: What can you do in Berlin now to make progress?

Strack-Zimmermann: I'm not alone in this opinion. The clear majority of the members of the Bundestag sees it the same way. So I will continue to press with my colleagues for the government to supply tanks in addition to artillery and ammunition in the future. The Ukrainians would be grateful if we could give them 50 martens. It is rumored that more than 100 Soviet-made tanks have already been delivered to the Ukraine as a result of the various ring exchanges. What many overlook is that the use of these ex-Soviet tanks was successful, but the loss due to their poor condition is now also very high. This is not a sustainable solution.

WORLD: Putin threatens to use tactical nuclear weapons. After your talks in Kyiv, how seriously do you take this threat? US President Biden sees the danger of a nuclear confrontation as great as it has not been in 60 years.

Strack-Zimmermann: I don't have a crystal ball. Basically, in a war everything has to be taken seriously, all potential dangers have to be considered. I also believe that Putin is capable of anything. At the same time, we must not be guided by fear and adopt the Kremlin's narratives. A nuclear strike would mean Russia being ostracized internationally, and countries like China will not simply accept such a breach of taboo.

WORLD: You were in Chernobyl, which the Russians occupied – like the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant now. How do you assess this threat?

Strack-Zimmermann: When you are in Chernobyl and you see this sealed reactor block, how gigantic it is, and then you imagine that the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has six reactor blocks and is five times as big – then it is just frightening. Just shooting close to there is a perversion of warfare. Putin is really pulling out all the stops to unsettle the “soft” Europeans and wear them down from within. Through fear of a meltdown, nuclear war, energy shortages, actually everything that is existential. He doesn't care about his own soldiers at all. After the invasion, they stayed in the forests between the Belarusian border and Chernobyl for more than six weeks. There is dense, completely irradiated forest area. They drank the water there and dug trenches. Every Russian soldier who was on site has to reckon with serious illnesses.

WORLD: So Putin is waging hybrid warfare on Europe. The federal government deplores the use of gas as a weapon and speaks of an energy war. At the same time, it is emphasized that Germany is not and will not be a war party. How does that fit together?

Strack-Zimmermann: Russia invaded the Ukraine. In accordance with international law, we stand by their side without being involved in acts of war ourselves. In addition, we are exposed to hybrid Russian attacks - long before the attack on Ukraine, by the way. This can be seen in questions about energy supply, in cyberspace and the targeted triggering of refugee movements towards Europe. We would be at war if we hit back with such methods.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.

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