Only 9% of Germans back NATO buildup in Eastern Europe – poll
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier drew much flak from local media for saying earlier in June that NATO’s “war-mongering” near Russia’s borders only adds fuel to an “old confrontation.” However, a recent survey shows that the majority of Germans largely agree with him.
Some 64 percent of respondents share Steinmeier’s views, according to a poll conducted by YouGov at the request of DPA news agency, according to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Only 16 percent rejected the Foreign Minister’s statement, and just 9 approved of the German government’s plan to send hundreds of troops to the Baltics in order to help deter what NATO calls “Russian assertiveness.”
On June 18, Foreign Minister Steinmeier slammed NATO’s plan, in which Germany is expected to play a lead role, to deploy both troops and military equipment to the Baltics.
Speaking to Bild am Sonntag newspaper, he said, “Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken.” NATO’s “saber-rattling and warmongering” only aggravate already extant tensions in the region and will not help restore trust and dialogue with Moscow, he added.
It would be “fatal to now narrow the focus to the military, and seek a remedy solely through a policy of deterrence,” the German FM said, before stressing, “We are well-advised to not create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.”
The statement sparked a barrage of accusations in the German media, with some newspapers calling the FM’s comments “a gift to Putin” and “an unprecedented act of disloyalty.”
However, several days later Gernot Erler, the German government’s coordinator for Russia, echoed Steinmeier’s remarks, telling Passauer Neue Presse, “Decisions to station troops and military operations swing wildly from one side to another. It is dangerous.”
“This is exactly the kind of developments which lead to uncontrolled situations, even war,” Erler said.
Earlier in June, NATO green-lighted the deployment of a 4,000-strong force in the Baltic countries and Poland, in addition to the more than 1,000 troops already stationed there on a rotational basis.
On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that NATO and the US have deployed “about 1,200 pieces of military equipment, including 30 combat jets” in the region.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized NATO’s build-up in Eastern Europe, calling it a needless provocation and promising an adequate response.