Since April’shas become considerably less popular in Kyiv and ’s western oblasts. Patriotic Ukrainian elites are largely correct in their evaluation of the effects of recent German foreign policy. At the NATO Summit in , ’s refusal certainly was not the least important factor in not extending a Membership Action Plan (MAP), postponing consideration until the December meeting.
Political commentary on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s behavior before, and at the click here ). It would be no particular exaggeration, as Kuzio might himself agree, to call his article anti-German. Kuzio talks about, among other things, German nationalism and sees parallels between pre and postwar German foreign policies – sensitive themes in today.Summit, varied widely. Among the most radical reactions was the opinion piece, “ Against Kyiv’s Westward Push” by Dr. Taras Kuzio, the West’s most prolific commentator on current Ukrainian affairs, which was published in the April 3 edition of the Kyiv Post (
Being German, I am still sympathetic to Kuzio’s motivations and from other commentators.’s MAP inclusion seemed near in early April. And indeed, the German chancellor’s dissenting opinion was an important perhaps even the major factor – in preventing it.
However, Kuzio and other commentators tend to misunderstand and misrepresent German intentions, and take too seriously German public references to Russian interests.has indeed a history of special relations with . Yet those times are long gone, contrary to what many Russian politicians and intellectuals continue to believe. Contemporary plays the role of the “good cop” with Western policies towards . Yet that is exactly what ’s behavior is about – is just playing its role.
Former, it is true, took the “good cop” role a bit too seriously. Yet his infamous labeling of Russian Federation as a “spotless democrat” is as much a joke in as how Americans view ’s remark on seeing Putin’s soul when looking into his eyes. Schroeder’s behavior after he left office – he took a job at a German-Gazprom joint venture he set up himself as chancellor – largely discredited his policies. While German business managers and entrepreneurs have considerable interests in , German political and intellectual elites have become as disillusioned with Putin as the decision makers and opinion leaders of other Western countries.
Moreover, Merkel is different from. Growing up Christian in , Merkel’s approach to Putin has been much cooler. Through her biography, Merkel knows about the methods of the Stasi, the infamous East German political police with whom Putin closely cooperated when he served for the KGB in Dresden in the late 1980s.
Contemporary’s stand on Ukrainian MAP participation is less related to any particular pro-Russian sentiment. Instead, it seems driven by another, more rational assessment of the implications that a Ukrainian MAP would have. As is all too well known, the majority of ’s population is still against NATO membership. The figures for February 2008 were 53 percent against and 21 percent in favor. Far too many reservations about remain among ordinary Ukrainians to start serious “membership action.” Most probably, a offer now would have the immediate effect of mobilizing Ukrainian anti-NATO forces, and their use of widely held anti-Western stereotypes, with unknown consequences. ’s current MAP participation would thus do more harm to Western-Ukrainian relations than bringing Kyiv any closer to . In view of the dim prospects of any serious talk about ’s entry into in the foreseeable future, there is currently little reason to get into a fight with the Russians.
Such a fight, to be sure, would be fine and well if a majority of the country’s population were in favor of NATO membership. It might be justified in Georgia for instance, where this is apparently the case. But at this point in time: What are we going to fight for withregards to ? If the Ukrainians themselves do not (yet) want into , what is all the fuss about? Moreover, the Russians would, and in fact already do, pretend that they are not only defending their own interests, but those of the majority of Ukrainians. Given recent Ukrainian polling data, this claim cannot be easily dismissed.
The main culprit in this story seems to be not, but itself. It has done too little, too late in terms of explaining to Ukrainians what is about. Instead, ’s political and public discourse remains corrupted by Soviet legacies. It is shaped by Russian governmentcontrolled mass media and the bizarre conspiratorial political sensationalism that dominates Russian and Ukrainian book markets today.
In this regard, one particular German actor, the influentialmagazine DER SPIEGEL does play a rather dubious role: DER SPIEGEL lends its name and reputation to one of ’s major publications in the infamous weekly Der Spiegel - Profil. This colorful, highcirculation magazine is edited by Russian Mikhail Leontiev, a wellknown, anti-Western propagandist, former “persona non grata” in and a 2001 founding member of Alexander Dugin’s neofascist Eurasia Movement.
One could argue that the primitiveness of Der Spiegel – Profil’s anti-Ukrainianism has the unintended effect of bolstering pro-NATO forces in(reminiscent of the repercussions from transmissions, in Ukraine, of the dubious Kyiv news reports by Moscow's television “journalists”). And it appears DER SPIEGEL is assisting in this. Yet this is quite a strange way for German journalists to further improve relations between and the West.
There remains a gap between the West’s and most Ukrainians’ understanding of’s nature and aims. As a result, Western statements on -Ukrainian relations come across as pushy in . Many Ukrainians ask themselves: What do NATO officials and Western leaders want from us? Unless takes more action to explain its history and intentions to ordinary Ukrainians, then they will continue to prevent serious -Ukrainian rapprochement, not the alleged sabotage of ’s European aspirations by .
First published (with some mistakes) in "Kyiv Post," April 17th, 2008, www.kyivpost.com.