The virtual slap to Steinmeier occurs a week after he admitted his “errors of appreciation” regarding the line of “closeness” that Germany cultivated with Moscow
It remains to be seen whether President Volodymyr Zelensky’s (virtual) slap in the face to his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will close or open the doors to the supplies kyiv craves from Berlin. For now, it was up to the German head of state to admit, crestfallen, that he was not a “desired visitor” by the Ukrainian leader and that there was no place for him in the high-level mission commanded by Poland and the Baltic countries that has traveled to the former Soviet republic.
Zelensky’s refusal to receive Steinmeier might have been resolved through discreet diplomatic channels. But the popular newspaper ‘Bild’, the most widely read in Germany, broadcast it on Tuesday through its digital edition while following the official visit of its president to Warsaw. Until then, the meeting between him and the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, had resulted in a joint appearance between statements of solidarity with Ukraine. After the revelation of the ‘Bild’, Steinmeier explained, still in Warsaw, that his intention would have continued to continue from there to kyiv, but that obviously was not going to happen. The Ukrainian government did not deny the veto until this Wednesday, with the diplomatic crack already open, when an adviser said on CNN that the visit was not prohibited.
Duda left at the head of the high-level delegation completed by the presidents of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia – Gitanas Nauseda, Alar Karis and Egils Levits-. The expression of “European solidarity” was thus reserved for that group of countries that, from minute zero of the Russian invasion, have shown the most unconditional support for Ukraine, demanding more direct supplies of arms to its Army and also saying goodbye to the Russian energy dependency.
It was already the traditional position of that bloc of countries on the eastern flank, which for years have been requesting NATO reinforcements and fearing territorial hostilities from the Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin. This Wednesday’s gesture is very clever, since it allows Zelensky to increase the Polish leadership with his support. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited him amid the siege of kyiv in mid-March, and Warsaw has been active in calling for military aircraft and a no-fly over Ukraine.
The Chancellor’s anger
The virtual slap in the face of Steinmeier occurs a week after he admitted his “errors of assessment” regarding the line of “closeness” that Germany cultivated with Moscow, both under the government of the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder -between 1998 and 2005- and in the 16 years in power of the conservative Angela Merkel. Before becoming president, in 2017, Steinmeier had been a minister in the Schröder Chancellery. With the relief in power he became head of Foreign Affairs for two terms of Merkel. The birth of the German-Russian Nord Stream project corresponds to the period shared with the co-religionist Schröder, signed by the then chancellor and his ally Putin.
While passing through Foreign Affairs, the expansion of the gas pipeline took place, defended by Merkel even in the midst of the annexation of Crimea, in 2014. The closeness of German social democracy comes from decades and is not exclusive to that political family, but was also cultivated by the conservatives of Helmut Kohl and Merkel.
But it is not only this that bothers Zelensky. The mediatic Ukrainian president wants something more than a ‘mea culpa’ from Berlin. A conciliatory walk from Steinmeier will bring him little, since, moreover, the position of president in Germany is of a representative rank. The visit that Zelensky demands is that of another Social Democrat, Olaf Scholz, as the leader of the Executive who must approve the tank shipments or cut off Russian gas. “It’s irritating,” the foreign minister responded on Wednesday on television, about the cancellation of the presidential trip. “It would have been nice to receive it. I don’t want to make any more comments. He’s a bit irritating, to be polite,” Scholz emphasized. And he stressed that Ukraine “has all the support and solidarity of Germany.” But he declined to answer whether he was planning to visit Zelensky in kyiv.
From the point of view of diplomatic canons, it is difficult to imagine the federal chancellor going to an appointment for which he stepped down to the highest institutional position in the State. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has introduced a kind of new international order or disorder where nothing is as it should be.
Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, NATO, Germany, Berlin, Estonia, kyiv, Moscow, Russia, Ukraine, Warsaw, War in Ukraine