Bundestag deputy Michael Roth: There are no ‘red lines’ on weapons supply to Ukraine

Michael Roth— member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)

Michael Roth—The head of the Bundestag parliamentary committee and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in an interview with DW.

Here are the main points of his interview:

▫️About “red lines” and the supply of Western weapons to Kyiv:

    Michael Roth: This is some kind of misunderstanding. From the very beginning, there was only one “red line”—international law. We respect international law, and that means to us that we only do what seems appropriate from the perspective of international law. A country that is attacked has the right to defend itself.  And we have the right – and I would emphasize that it is also a political and moral duty – to support this country not only politically, not only with humanitarian aid,  financially and economically, but also with weapons. And we have one guide in mind: we do not want to become a party to the conflict, but we stand for Ukraine.

    We will become a party of war in that case, for example, if we send our servicemen to Ukraine (…). However, I do not see any “red lines” in the matter of weapons supply.

    ▫️About transformation in public opinion and within the SPD party.

      Michael Roth: At first, everyone, including the Social Democrats in the government coalition, had to rethink everything. The entire population had to rebuild. For many it was not easy because we did not change our policy, we didn’t start the war of aggression, we didn’t provoke Russia.

      On the contrary, Russia is provoking us and its neighbors as well. She provokes them with war, aggression, and, unfortunately, with lies. It provokes terrible propaganda that has no relation to the facts. We had to adapt to it. A lot of people found it difficult. In addition, of course, we needed to align our defense capabilities with the realities of this war.

      After all, who could have thought at the beginning of this war that Russian troops would be capable of such war crimes! That they will primarily attack civilian objects. That they will not spare the children. That schools, kindergartens, private houses will be destroyed. And this brutality – which, by the way, we saw not only in Buch – became a reason for reflection in us as well. As a result, we realized that we are obliged to do everything possible so that Ukraine can defend itself and can liberate the territories occupied by Russia. Where there are no Russian troops, there are no war crimes. There is no rape, no murder, and no lawlessness.

      ▫️ Regarding the potential dialogue with Russia.

        “Our willingness to engage in dialogue was exploited by Russia”

        Michael Roth: The fact that we talked to each other was never a mistake. Dialogue is the central principle of diplomacy. But dialogue must go hand in hand with combat training and deterring the enemy. And this aspect was neglected both in Germany and in other European countries.

        While we were still thinking about peaceful solutions to the conflict, a few days before the start of the war, Russia was moving troops towards Ukraine, and Putin was breaking his promises. And we need to draw lessons from this for the future. We can no longer be allowed to find ourselves in a situation where Russia or some other authoritarian country will blackmail or deceive us. It goes without saying that the dialogue will continue. Both the German Chancellor and French President occasionally call Putin to explain their positions and expectations for a peaceful solution.

        There are intensive diplomatic contacts along the lines of the exchange of prisoners of war, on the question of how to protect Ukrainian nuclear power plants, on how to ensure the supply of grain to Africa and Asia in order to prevent famine. We are also talking with other partners who could influence the Kremlin. Russia is extremely dependent on China, and of course we are talking to the Chinese government and asking them to use their influence on Putin to finally end this war, to withdraw the troops from the territory of Ukraine, and to stop the shelling.

        ▫️On the decision of the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue a warrant for Putin’s arrest.

        Michael Roth: I am very grateful to the ICC for this courageous decision because everyone must obey international law. Someday, we will start persecuting and punishing Russian servicemen and bringing them to justice… But this is a war of aggression, and the responsibility for its initiation lies with Putin, his regime, and his accomplices in the Kremlin. They should be held accountable for their actions.

        Our Minister of Justice only announced the facts. Our country supports the International Criminal Court, and if an arrest warrant is issued, then obviously we will support the International Criminal Court in executing that warrant. You can’t do otherwise! We are talking about international law here, not arbitrariness. Arbitrariness reigns in the Russian judicial system, while we adhere to the principles of justice and international law.

        ▫️About the economy… EU sanctions on Russia and their effectiveness.

        Michael Roth: There are always mistakes when it comes to sanctions. And first of all… We are reluctant to adopt sanctions, because we, of course, understand that as a result of sanctions, many people will suffer, who bear no responsibility for this war at all.

        However, for us, sanctions are a very important tool that allows us to clarify that we do not accept this war in silence. This is an attempt by many democratic states – EU countries, Canada, the USA, Japan and many others around the world – to put a barricade on the path of the Russian regime.

        And here I answer your question – what are the consequences of these sanctions? These sanctions are unprecedented. And we will continue to strengthen them in accordance with the current situation – since it is also about closing loopholes in the sanctions’ regime.

        The fact that Russia’s economy did not collapse in a short period of time is partly due to the unprecedented rise in energy prices. When the European market turned out to be closed to the supply of energy carriers from Russia, it reoriented itself to new markets. In addition, its profits increased due to rising prices. But in the long and medium term, Russia will have to pay a very high price. We see that Russia is already trying to buy back its weapons. And that it is trying to persuade other countries to circumvent sanctions, for example, by supplying dual-purpose goods. We know very well that about 10-20 percent of the goods of the defense industry of the Russian Federation require Western production technologies, which turned out to be unavailable due to sanctions.

        So the price Russia will have to pay will be incredibly high. But there is one difference. In Germany, people would probably have taken to the streets a long time ago. And the people of Russia are masters of improvisation, it seems. They don’t expect much from the state, and if things don’t go well, they always manage to cope on their own, even if it means planting more potatoes in the country or helping relatives. In this regard, the Russian people have many times more patience than the Germans, French, Poles, or residents of other countries of the world.

        ▫️Will the West maintain its support for Ukraine or alter its attitude?

        Michael Roth: After 13 months of war, which had a rudimental effect on German society, I am truly grateful to our people for the extensive support – political, economic, military, as well as for accepting refugees.

        But we are a free country. And, of course, we also hear criticism of this policy. And if we ask ourselves why so many Russians are convinced that this is a fair war, we could self-critically ask another question: why do a considerable number of Germans succumb to Russian narratives that we are all to blame for everything? That NATO behaved aggressively? That we were allegedly not ready to take into account Russian interests in the field of security?

        After all, all these Putin narratives, which have little to do with reality, poison the atmosphere in us as well. And since this is so, people like me, politicians, have a special mission: to patiently explain to the citizens all these difficult decisions and the processes of their adoption, day after day.

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