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'Russia has squandered trust'

Interview: Jeanette Seiffert / jhAugust 13, 2014

Conservative foreign affairs politician Karl-Georg Wellmann believes that Russia will invade Ukraine under the pretense of providing aid. Help from Germany can only come when the region is brought to peace.

Karl-Georg Wellmann
Image: picture-alliance/ZB

DW: Initially there appeared to be agreement between Kyiv and Moscow - and yet on Tuesday there were troubling reports that a Russian aid convoy, unknown to the International Red Cross, was on its way towards the Ukrainian border. Is this foul play from Russia?

Karl-Georg Wellmann: That's the fear. The problem is that trust in Russia has reached rock bottom after President Vladimir Putin failed to adhere to his promises, including those made to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Naturally, there's a concern that a military intervention is lurking behind the disguise of this humanitarian convoy. That's why the response from the international community has been so hesitant.

How likely do you consider a Russian invasion under a humanitarian banner?

Likely or not, every angle has to be considered. There are corresponding noises coming out of Moscow: Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has said that Ukraine must be "liberated."

Russia could bring a swift end to the separatists' terrorist activities by stopping the movement of guns, ammunition and fighters across the border. Yet Russia has decided not to do this. As a result, the suspicion that it wants to destabilize the system and use the pretense of a humanitarian convoy has increased. The instigator of the violence is now attempting to become the police force - and that's not right.

Ultimately, the Ukrainian government is in a dilemma. It has to react to the humanitarian emergency in the east, but success in that venture is unlikely without external help. But help from Russia carries a great risk. What to do?

The West must do all it can to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. In the best case, this should be achieved with Russia, but as long as Moscow remains an unreliable partner then nothing will happen. Russia must really take sustainable steps to regain that trust, and so far we haven't seen that.

What can the West do apart from observe? If more help were to come out of Germany and other European countries, Russia might not be so involved.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia are at an all-time low. Ukraine has already made the decision to adopt the Western model, signing an association agreement with the European Union. And we must make clear our support for Ukraine in this - economically, financially - with everything that Europe can offer.

Does that include humanitarian aid?

Humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary. The population in the battle zones is suffering. They people have no power, no access to water in some places, or food or medical supplies. We have to do all we can, regardless of who is in charge. The Red Cross is good, as is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), at providing the people in trouble with the necessary help.

What does that mean in practical terms?

We are well experienced in supplying relief, particularly in areas that are no longer being fought over, and where aid workers no longer risk their lives. We can do a lot to help. We as Germans, as well as the European Union and other international organizations, have all the means to help.

As soon as these territories are free, it is time for reconstruction so that the people can see how quickly sustained aid can be provided.

Karl-Georg Wellmann has been a member of the Christian Democrats (CDU) in the Bundestag since 2005 and is the chairman of the German-Ukrainian parliamentary group. In 2013, following the poison gas attack in Ghuta, the foreign affairs specialist campaigned for a military strike against Syria even without a mandate from the UN. Recently, he called for the delivery of arms to the Kurds in northern Iraq to aid them in the battle against Islamic State militants.