Diplomatic dispute with Ukraine: Now the journey can begin


Status: 06.05.2022 00:10

After weeks of tension over Steinmeier’s rejection, all German politicians are now welcome in Ukraine – including the federal president. Foreign Minister Baerbock and Federal President Bas have already announced that they will be in Kiev.

By Lothar Lenz, ARD Capital Studio

There is no need to talk about an “ice age” between Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Germany – but it was more than a minor diplomatic uprising that decided the relationship between Kiev and Berlin in the last three weeks.

Although only three days after the start of the war, Chancellor Olaf Scholz openly stood on the land that Russia invaded in his speech during a special rally in the Bundestag, although Germany has since received hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine and – albeit hesitantly – supplying heavy weapons of war set in motion by Ukraine, relations between the two countries were strained – to say the least.

A last-minute discharge

In mid-April, Ukraine unsolicited unsolicited the highest representative of the republic, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Steinmeier wanted to visit the war zone with the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states. But the German side was told at the last minute that the federal president was not welcome. Steinmeier flew back to Berlin in dismay.

Kyiv justified this move with open criticism of Steinmeier’s pro-Russian stance during his time as Federal Foreign Minister.

Scholz puts his own travel plans on hold

At the Federal President’s office, the unloading was seen as a violation. There has never been anything like it with a federal president, it sounded unofficially from Bellevue Palace.

Chancellor Scholz was also clearly upset and put his own travel plans to Ukraine on hold. As long as the federal president is not wanted in Kiev, he will not go there either, Scholz told ZDF. The Ukrainian ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, at the time called Scholz, not very diplomatically, an “offended liver sausage”.

Continued support despite disagreements

This tone and the duration of the disagreement between the two countries seemed all the more unfortunate, as Germany, meanwhile, continues its actual support for Ukraine undiminished: the supply of heavy weapons is no longer a matter of “if”, but only one of ” what “and” when “. After the “Cheetah” air defense tank, there are now also some self-propelled howitzers, ie heavy artillery pieces, on the delivery list. In addition, the Bundeswehr supports countries such as the Czech Republic, which transfer Soviet-style weapons to Ukraine, with more modern Western equipment from their own warehouses.

The acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in Germany, including their housing, their education and their access to the labor market, now seems almost like a routine political task that no serious parliamentary expression questions.

Weeks of argumentation, one hour of clarification

Now, however, it has turned out that German-Ukrainian relations only seemed to have stalled: in a simple phone call – albeit lasting almost an hour – Steinmeier and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to let the past rest. and talk to face the future.

That Steinmeier has now publicly and honestly admitted his own misjudgments in Eastern European policy – and can refer to this – is by no means alone in his course of rapprochement with Moscow and intensive trade with Russia.

The question of who will be the first member of the federal government to travel to Ukraine has now been answered: It will not be Steinmeier, not the Chancellor, but Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, as Scholz announced.

The personal visit has symbolic power

After CDU leader Friedrich Merz had already interrupted the apparent absence of top German politicians in the war zone with a brief visit to the greater Kyiv region this weekend, Federal President Bärbel Bas will travel to Kiev first. The trip is of course also intended as an act of solidarity, but it also has an important historical background: Together with the Ukrainian parliamentary speaker Ruslan Stefantschuk, Bas wants to commemorate the dead during World War II and German guilt – May 8 marks the anniversary of the surrender of the third rich for the 77th time.

The fact that German politicians and members of the government are now starting to “travel” to Kiev will certainly not change much in relation to Germany’s position on Ukraine and Berlin’s practical policy – but personal visits are always important symbols of political cooperation. This is true when they do occur – and sometimes even more so when they do not. No newly elected Chancellor could afford to do without opening visits to important partner countries such as France, Poland or the United States. It seems that Ukraine will also be one of the places to be seen for leading German politicians for an entire era.

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