tuesday, 5 august of 2014

Germany Blocks the Delivery of Military Parts to Russia

The German government, increasing the economic pressure on Russia over its involvement in Ukraine, has blocked delivery of parts for a high-tech military training center that was to be completed in Russia by the end of the year, a spokeswoman for the Economics Ministry said Monday.

Sigmar Gabriel, the economics minister, withdrew the right of Rheinmetall, one of Germany’s leading military equipment contractors, to deliver the final parts of a field-exercise simulator to Russia that was scheduled to be operational in the fall. The move goes a step beyond sanctions adopted by European Union members last week, which did not apply to existing contracts.

“You can see from our decision that the German government follows a very clear course that we, of course, consider to be right,” said Tanja Alemany, a spokeswoman for the Economics Ministry. She refused to comment on whether Germany was tacitly criticizing other European Union countries, in particular France, which has drawn fire for the delivery of a Mistral-class helicopter to Russia.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Berlin would be open to expanding the existing European Union sanctions to include already signed deals. “The European Council decided what it decided,” the spokesman, Georg Streiter, told reporters on Monday.

“But if at the end of the negotiations there were to be an improvement, we would welcome it.”

Germany suspended the deal for the training center parts in March, after Russia annexed Crimea. The action on Monday made the suspension permanent.

The move could further strain relations between Moscow and Berlin. Germany has repeatedly urged the Kremlin to use its influence over the separatists in eastern Ukraine to halt the fighting. For weeks, Berlin had appeared reluctant to support stiffer sanctions against Moscow, but lost patience after extended delays in starting an international investigation into the downing of a Malaysian plane over disputed territory last month.

The German government said the training center, which had been scheduled to open this year with the capacity to train 30,000 soldiers, would not be able to function without the final parts.

The decision to halt the deal, estimated by the Economics Ministry to be worth 123 million euros, or about $165 million, will also put the German government under increased pressure from the country’s powerful industrial sector, which has warned that economic sanctions against Russia will hamper growth and increase unemployment.

But Mr. Gabriel has said that the long-term consequences of inaction on the part of the European Union will be greater than the short-term loss in growth incurred by punitive measures.

“If the lesson in Europe is that you can instigate a civil war in a neighboring country and nothing happens, I think that would set us back decades, and cost much more,” he said in an interview with the television broadcaster ZDF on Sunday. Europe, he added, cannot act only “as if we were an economic-interest group.”

“We are a political union, and must ensure peace on the Continent,” he said.

(Published by The New York Times - August 4, 2014)

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