Saturday, May 7, 2022

Warning to the Kremlin – Steinmeier: NATO will "defend every inch"

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“Strong and well-fortified” are the NATO countries, said Steinmeier during a visit to Slovakia. In view of Putin’s threats against the alliance, the Federal President is sending a clear message to Moscow.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has warned the Kremlin not to underestimate NATO’s readiness to defend itself. “Our democracies are strong and well-fortified,” he said on Wednesday after talks with Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova in the city of Kosice. “They stand ready and able to defend every inch of Alliance territory — together.” This unmistakable signal also comes from the German and Dutch squadrons of the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system stationed in Slovakia.

Caputova expressly thanked Steinmeier for Germany’s military assistance. “They say that when you’re in trouble, you can tell who your friend is.”

Steinmeier emphasized that the willingness to provide assistance to Ukraine and to bear the burdens in solidarity will be required for a long time to come. “We will not leave Ukraine alone in these difficult times. We must and are providing aid – humanitarian, financial and also military.” His “invitation” to visit President Volodymyr Zelenskyi does not change that. Steinmeier explained that Germany does not have to hide behind other countries when it comes to its services to Ukraine.

Caputova announced further arms deliveries to Ukraine. “From the very beginning we have provided military and humanitarian aid. In terms of volume, this is the largest aid in the history of the Slovak Republic.” According to Caputova, the current focus is on the sale of the Slovakian wheeled armored howitzer Zuzana. But one is also open to further deliveries of weapons – provided their own defense capability is guaranteed.

Slovakia shares a nearly 100-kilometer border with Ukraine and fears for its own security. Kosice, the country’s second largest city to the east, is also a hub for humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the arrival point of many refugees from the country. The two heads of state also spoke to representatives of humanitarian aid organizations.

With the trip, Steinmeier continued his visits to NATO’s eastern flank. In the past few weeks he has already been to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. He is planning a visit to Romania next week. He only met Caputova last September in Bratislava – back then when times were still more peaceful.

Germany had deployed two Patriot squadrons to Slovakia after the Russian attack on Ukraine. Together with a Dutch Patriot squadron, they reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. Between 230 and 250 German soldiers are currently deployed at Sliac Air Force Base. The Slovakian parliament has set an upper limit of 700 soldiers for the German contingent.

“We are committed to a strong NATO,” said Steinmeier. “Our loyalty to the alliance is not lip service, but extremely concrete.” Steinmeier wanted to visit the German soldiers with Caputova and have dinner with them before flying back to Berlin.

The Patriot system can engage enemy aircraft, tactical ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. It has a range of up to 68 kilometers. Support from other NATO countries is important for Slovakia because it donated its own S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in early April.

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