After Germany decided to deliver Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine after long hesitation, the government in Russia reacted promptly: “Everything that the alliance and the capitals in Europe and the USA that I mentioned do is done in Moscow as a direct participation in the conflict,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday (January 26, 2023) in Moscow, according to a report by the Russian news agency Interfax.
Scholz: “No war between Russia and NATO”
Exactly that, the accusation from Moscow that Germany is now also a party to the war in Ukraine, is what Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) actually always wanted to avoid.
And so he said on Wednesday evening (January 25) on ZDF (second German television) that his country was not directly involved in the war: “No, absolutely not,” said Scholz. And further: “There must be no war between Russia and NATO.”
International law experts agree with Scholz
International law experts generally agree with Scholz. The United Nations Charter states: “In their international relations, all members shall refrain from any threat or use of force directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of a state or otherwise incompatible with the goals of the United Nations.” Russia violated this rule with its attack on Ukraine in February last year. And the Charter clearly provides that in this case all countries have the right to defend themselves, individually or collectively, as it expressly states.
Heavy weapons are also legitimate
This also expressly means that other countries can supply weapons or start training missions. No distinction is made between heavy weapons, such as the Leopard 2 tank from Germany, or lighter weapon systems. Even the deployment of armed forces from other countries in Ukraine would be legitimate, says international law expert Markus Krajewski from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg on ARD: “Because every shot that Russia is currently firing in Ukraine is a continuation of the breach of international law. Russia is behaving only conforms to international law again when it withdraws its troops behind its own borders.” But it doesn’t look like that at the moment.
Kiesewetter: “Russia used the winter for supplies”
On the contrary: Experts expect a spring offensive by the Russians. The defense expert for the CDU in the Bundestag, Roderich Kiesewetter, told DW: “Russia used the winter to advance the mobilization and training of Russian soldiers and to take care of the supply of ammunition and materials.
The Ukraine has so far hardly been able to compensate for its material losses.” The armored personnel carriers and battle tanks, the artillery and the ammunition deliveries would therefore initially only compensate for this glaring disadvantage. In addition to high material losses, especially in tanks, there is hardly any ammunition and spare parts for the Soviet models Kiesewetter: “The switch to Western models and logistics chains is therefore unavoidable.”
Excitement after Baerbock statement
But for the Western states that are now supplying battle tanks to Ukraine, how exactly Russia’s President Vladimir Putin reacts to the tank deliveries is more decisive than a legal, let alone international law definition. The discussion about a statement by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) about a “war against Russia” shows just how sensitive and agitated the situation is.
Demands an explanation from the German ambassador: Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called on Friday (January 27) for a statement from the German ambassador in Moscow on “contradictory” statements from Berlin. On the one hand, Germany declares that it is not a party to the conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, Baerbock says that the countries of Europe are at war with Russia. “Do you understand what you’re talking about?” Zakharova wrote on the Telegram news channel.
International law? Not decisive for Putin
On Tuesday (January 24) at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Baerbock called for the cohesion of the western allies with the following words: “We are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other.” The Russian state media used this statement for war propaganda – as proof that Germany and the other EU countries are direct conflict parties in Ukraine and are fighting against Russia.
In the meantime, the Foreign Office has put Baerbock’s statement in a different light. At the request of various media and social networks, the office wrote: “Russia is waging a brutal war against Ukraine.” This is also a war against the European peace order and international law. “International law is clear: supporting Ukraine in exercising its individual right to self-defense against Russia’s war of aggression, which is contrary to international law, does not make Germany a party to the conflict, as enshrined in the UN Charter.”
While Germany and its other Western allies appear to be on the safe side when it comes to international law, their heavy arms shipments are now increasingly the focus of Russian propaganda. Because the Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far given little heed to international law and is unlikely to do so in the future either.