An Unusual Mission

BERLIN/KIEV | | ukraine

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) - Many contradictions have appeared over the case of the captured German military observers in Slavyansk. Contrary to persisting misinformation, a leading OSCE functionary has confirmed that the military observers were not on an OSCE mission in the Ukraine, but rather on a German Bundeswehr mission at the request of the putsch regime in Kiev. Even before the incident in Slavyansk, the Bundeswehr considered the activities of this partisan unit - which officially claims to be acting on the authority of "the Vienna Document" arms control agreement - to be "unusual" and "unprecedented in this form." In fact, the Bundeswehr personnel were not only involved in a dangerous conflict; they were also engaged on the territory of a successor state of the Soviet Union. To maintain the military balance in Europe, the West had once promised Moscow not to station any military in these countries. Last week, one of the detained Germans had publicly declared that his delegation was exclusively monitoring Ukrainian security forces; their mission statement did not allow anything else.

Not an OSCE Mission

The three German servicemen and their German interpreter, who, since Friday, are being detained along with 3 other officers from NATO countries in the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk - a fourth soldier, from non-NATO member Sweden, has been released - are not participants in an official OSCE observation mission. On March 21, the deployment of the official OSCE observation mission to Ukraine had been decided to last for an initial period of six months, with ten Germans participating in the mission. The Germans being held in Slavyansk, however, are not on a mission for the OSCE, as Claus Neukirch, Deputy Director of the OSCE Crisis Prevention Center explicitly confirmed over the weekend.[1] They were on a mission as military observers on behalf of the German Bundeswehr. They could not produce an international mandate. The Bundeswehr called their activities in the Ukraine "unusual." The fact that they traveled into the embattled city of Slavyansk raises even more questions.

Comprehensively Informed

The presence of German military observers in the Ukraine is formally justified with the so-called Vienna Document, which was adopted in 1990 and several times updated since. The Vienna Document facilitates arms control, obliging signatory states to a reciprocal exchange of information about their armed forces and major weapons systems, and includes verification mechanisms. It has been recognized by all 57 OSCE member states. In Germany, the Bundeswehr Verification Center (ZVBw) is responsible for coordinating all tasks arising from the implementation of the Vienna Document. The ZVBw has been collecting comprehensive information on the armed forces, particularly on those of the Soviet Union's successor states - and the German military observers in the Ukraine are on mission for this agency. "ZVBw servicemen inspect military installations of the participating states and accompany foreign delegations coming for inspections to Germany," according to ZVBw's description of its habitual activities.[2] It is based in Geilenkirchen near Aachen. NATO AWACS "surveillance" aircraft are also stationed in that town and are deployed by the western war alliance for verification flights over Poland and Romania.[3]

Partisan Observers

The deployment of German military observers in Ukraine differs in principle from the ZVBw's previous "Vienna Document" missions, aimed at routine arms control. The mission is taking place in a dangerous conflict. This is "unusual" and "in the history of the Vienna Document, has never happened before in this form," explained the German Lieutenant Colonel Hayko von Rosenzweig, who, from March 5 to 20, himself, had been deployed as a German military observer in Ukraine. At the time, Rosenzweig was charged with drawing up a "clear situation assessment of the activities of Russian and Ukrainian armed forces." But his delegation was halted by separatists.[4] The putschist regime in Kiev - a party to the conflict and a regime without democratic legitimacy - had formally requested the mission. Moreover, this mission is taking place in one of the former Soviet countries. During the upheavals 1989 to 1991, the major western powers had promised Moscow not to station any NATO troops on the territories of former Warsaw Treaty Organization member countries. This commitment - designed to maintain the military balance in Europe - has been broken by NATO countries numerous times over the past few years.[5] The deployment of German military observers is further shifting this balance of power.

"Keeping an Eye on Government Armed Forces"

Further questions are raised about the activities of German military observers in Slavyansk. Last Wednesday, Col. Axel Schneider, one of the Germans being detained in Slavyansk, first spoke in a radio broadcast about the official objectives of his mission. According to Schneider, the delegation was supposed to "make an assessment" of "the situation" of Ukraine's armed units "and their capabilities, whether they are offense or defense oriented." Schneider explicitly explained that the focus was "on regular, government armed forces." There was no assignment, whatsoever, to have anything to do with separatist units or even with Russian special forces, allegedly operating in Ukraine. "We are concentrating on the security forces of the Ukraine." However, in retrospect, the information Schneider presented on Wednesday is not convincing. He claimed he was "positively certain," there is absolutely no "offensive posturing, possible escalation" from "Ukraine's armed forces."[6] A few days later, these very same armed forces stormed Slavyansk.

Coordinated with Berlin

Still, the more important question is what were the German military observers doing in Slavyansk, in the first place, if their assignment - in accordance to the "Vienna Document" - was to solely deal with Ukrainian armed forces. Slavyansk is in the hands of separatists. This question becomes that much more volatile, since the putsch regime in Kiev apparently had explicitly coordinated its offensive on that city with Germany's NATO partner, the USA. For example, Ukraine's Vice Prime Minister Vitalii Yarema had not only received the head of the CIA, John Brennan, in Kiev for talks on expanding general cooperation between the secret services. According to reports, the Ukrainian partner was particularly interested in Russian and pro-Russian troop movements. It is also reported that during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Kiev, Yarema had been advised by "anti-terror" specialists on the impending "anti-terror" mission (the putsch regime's vernacular) in Slavyansk.[7] The fact that it can be ruled out that the German military observers on mission in the Ukraine will remain silent about what they have learned, is not only due to standard procedure in similar cases. In the radio broadcast, Col. Schneider explicitly confirmed that "we have coordinated everything very closely with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs."[8] On the other hand, particularly in light of the intelligence service scandals over the past few years, it is not to be assumed that Berlin would withhold its information on the situation on the ground in Slavyansk - encircled by Ukrainian troops ready to storm the city - from its allies.

More reports and background information on the current German policy in reference to the Ukraine can be found here: A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance, Expansive Ambitions, Our Man in Kiev, Integration Rivalry with Moscow, On the Offensive, At all Costs, The Crimean Conflict, The Kiev Escalation Strategy, Cold War Images, The Free World, A Fatal Taboo Violation, The Europeanization of Ukraine and Official Government Vocative.

[1] Separatisten führen Militärinspekteure vor. www.faz.net 27.04.2014.
[2] Zentrum für Verifikationsaufgaben der Bundeswehr. www.kommando.streitkraeftebasis.de. See Von Vancouver bis Wladiwostok.
[3] Russia Could Invade Ukraine 'Any Day Now,' NATO Officials Warn. www.ibtimes.com 02.04.2014.
[4] Ein ganz besonderer Auftrag. www.streitkraeftebasis.de 10.04.2014.
[5] In 2010, the USA began deploying patriot units in Poland - formally rotating and for training purposes, but in fact permanently. In 2012, US soldiers were permanently deployed at central Poland's Lask military airport. Previously, the German government had created a precedent by making the Halle/Leipzig Airport available for military use - also for NATO's war on Afghanistan, even though the agreement between the West and Moscow also applied to the territory of the GDR. S. dazu Start in den Sommer und In den Urlaub. See Take Off Into the Summer and In den Urlaub.
[6] "Sehr überraschende Befunde". www.br.de 23.04.2014.
[7] Reinhard Lauterbach: Streik in der Ostukraine. www.jungewelt.de 24.04.2014.
[8] "Sehr überraschende Befunde". www.br.de 23.04.2014.