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05/12/2016

Germany to send troops to Ukraine

Europe's East

Germany to send troops to Ukraine

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen speaks with German troops during a training exercise on 2 October, 2014. [Medien Bundeswehr/Flickr]

Germany plans to deploy Bundeswehr troops in a joint Franco-German mission to support an OSCE-brokered ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, government sources said, with Social Democrats calling for a mandate from the Bundestag and the Left Party condemning the move “for historical reasons”. EurActiv Germany reports.

“We are certain, we will be able to offer the OSCE a joint Franco-German effort to help the OSCE fulfil its ambitions,” said German Foreign Office spokesman, Martin Schäfer, on Monday (6 October) in Berlin.

This could happen in the next “hours or days”, he said.

Meanwhile, the German government contradicted expectations that the operation could begin this week.

Numerous legal, military and political questions are still unanswered, Schäfer indicated. Most likely, a mandate will be needed from the Bundestag, said the spokesman for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The German Defense Ministry recently announced considerations to initiate a drone operation over the Russia-Ukraine border and a training centre for Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.

On Sunday (5 October), French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also announced a joint German-French surveillance mission in eastern Ukraine “within the coming days”.

Plans for a Franco-German operation go back to the NATO Summit four weeks ago, a German Defense Ministry spokesman commented. A joint fact-finding mission led by the two countries already took place in eastern Ukraine between 16 and 20 September, said the spokesman.

>> Read: NATO summit pledges ‘tangible’ support to Ukraine

But it did not result in a political decision, he indicated, nor have the allies determined how many soldiers are necessary to cover drones deployed in the region.

In addition, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has not revealed whether a Bundestag mandate will be needed for a German drone operation.

But the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is insisting on Bundestag approval.

“If this results in further German contributions, the Bundestag will be quick to reach the necessary decisions,” the SPD’s vice faction leader Rolf Mützenich told Reuters.

In the Minsk agreement, from 19 September, the OSCE was given a central role in monitoring the ceasefire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has frequently been broken. Germany recently applied to head up the OSCE for the year 2016.

Meanwhile, Left Party faction leader Gregor Gysi criticised the recent plans for a joint mission.

Germany should not participate in the important OSCE operation because the German government has never been neutral with regard to the Ukraine conflict, Gysi told the broadcaster ntv.

Historical reasons should also prevent a deployment of German troops to Ukraine, the Left Party politician said.

Background

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took centre stage at the 30 August EU summit and said that the Union’s heads of state and government had given his country broad support, since it had faced “open aggression” from Russia, adding that the EU's agenda from now on would largely revolve around Ukraine.

At the summit, some EU leaders spoke about the need of military assistance to Ukraine, many demanded tougher sanctions, but reportedly Slovakia, Hungary and Cyprus made it clear they oppose further sanctions which they claim would hurt their countries more than Russia.

Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament on 2 September that the new sanctions, to be proposed by the Commission on 5 September, will not be of the category of “stage three”, but would expand the range of current financial sanctions targeting officials responsible for Russian military actions in Ukraine, restrictions on arms and dual-use materials, and technology.