German Navy Chief Resigns Over Controversial Remarks

German Navy Chief Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach has resigned after controversial comments on Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others. In his remarks, Schönbach also argued that accepting Georgia into NATO was not a “smart” idea despite meeting membership requirements.

“I have just asked the Federal Defense Minister to relieve me from my duties as the Navy Inspector with immediate effect. The thoughtless comments I made in India on security and military policy are increasingly weighing on my office,” said the Vice Admiral in a statement released by the Navy press center late on January 22.

In order to prevent further damage to the German Navy, the Armed Forces of Germany, but above all the Federal Republic of Germany, I consider this step to be necessary. Madame Federal Minister accepted my request,” his statement added.

Schönbach gave his controversial talk at the event hosted by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Indian think-tank in Delhi on January 21. The Vice Admiral argued that “the Crimean Peninsula is gone: It will never come back [to Kyiv] — this is a fact.” 

Asked about NATO’s eastward expansion, Schönbach said “Ukraine, of course, cannot meet the requirements because it’s occupied, at least [in] the Donbas region by the Russian army or by what they call militias.”

In this context, the Vice Admiral also recalled Georgia, arguing: “Do they meet requirements? Yes, yes, they do. Is it smart to have them as a member? No, it’s not.”

The German Navy Chief also argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not actually seeking to absorb Ukrainian territories, but demanding “respect.” “What he really wants is respect.”

Citing his “very radical Roman Catholic” perspective, Schönbach also claimed Russia as an old, important and Christian country was needed by Germany, as well as India, against China.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said earlier on January 22 that Kyiv considered the statements Schönbach‘s statements “categorically unacceptable.” “The Crimean Peninsula can be lost only in the imagination of the German Vice-Admiral.”

Following the outcry, the German Federal Defense Ministry explained that “in terms of content and choice of words, the statements [by Schönbach] in no way correspond to the position of the [Ministry].”

On his part, Vice Admiral Schönbach apologized on Twitter for his “rush” comments, noting his statements made in India conveyed his personal opinion.

The Foreign Ministry of Georgia has issued no statement on the matter.

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