German chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Ukraine for the first time since 2008 on Saturday, August 23. It is interesting that the intrigue about the visit lasted until August 18. Let us remind that it was first announced by the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko last Saturday after a phone conversation with the head of the German government. And foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin announced the visit of “the Iron Frau” at a briefing at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center. “This is an extraordinary visit. It is a result of close personal contacts of the president of Ukraine and Germany’s chancellor. This visit will be very interesting from the point of view of its content,” said Klimkin, who used to be an ambassador in Berlin before his current post.
However, there was no confirmation of this visit from the German side, and only in the afternoon of August 18 The Day received confirmation from the German embassy that the official visit will take place on August 23.
As a reminder: Merkel’s last visit to Kyiv was on July 21, 2008. She had a meeting with the then president of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in the Horodetsky Building. It is possible that this time negotiations will take place in the well-known House of Chimeras as well. The then head of state expressed a hope that thanks to this visit, “we will start a new stage in our relations.” By the way, that meeting took place after Merkel blocked the provision of MAP to Ukraine and Georgia at the NATO Summit in Bucharest. That is why we can only hope that the German chancellor drew conclusions from this mistake that cost two wars: in Georgia, which faced an attack in 2008, and in Ukraine, which is an object of Russia’s aggression now.
The Day addressed several experts with a request to comment on the visit of the German chancellor to Ukraine and predict its results.
Edward LUCAS, deputy editor in chief of The Economist, author of the book The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West traditionally gave a short comment: “Merkel is sending a powerful and positive signal. Germany is waking up – better late than never.”
“A STRONG GESTURE OF BERLIN’S DEEP CONCERN OVER THE SITUATION IN THE EAST OF UKRAINE”
Gerhard GNAUCK, correspondent of Die Welt in Warsaw:
“I hope this will be a strong gesture of Berlin’s deep concern over the situation in the east of Ukraine. Today, on August 19, a ZDF TV reporter was on a plane with Merkel on the way to Riga, and it was said that general anxiety over the ‘real’ war between Russia and Ukraine is growing.
“Secondly, it will be a powerful gesture of solidarity with Kyiv, and thirdly, it is a symbolic visit on the eve of anniversary of signing an agreement between Hitler and Stalin.”
“A SIGNAL TOWARDS MOSCOW TO RESPECT THE TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF UKRAINE”
Dietmar STUEDEMANN, former German Ambassador to Ukraine:
“The Kyiv visit of Federal Chancellor Merkel on the eve of Ukraine’s Independence Day is of symbolic significance and an important political signal.
“Ukraine’s independence is a fundamental precondition for peace, security, and welfare in Europe.
“At this very dangerous stage of an undeclared war in southeast Ukraine and at a crucial moment of the desperately needed reform of political institutions on the basis of a state of law and control mechanisms to fight corruption and the use of particular interests Chancellor Markel’s visit will be very supportive. Germany will bilaterally and as member of the EU help to achieve these goals politically, financially, and logistically. The question of military aid has to be decided within the EU and NATO. The delivery of German weapons is for principal reasons excluded but beyond that there is a broad range of possibilities of military aid from training up to logistics.
“Germany and the EU are united to do everything to make Ukraine a positive example of a democracy and socially oriented market economy in the post soviet space. The visit is quite evidently a signal towards Moscow to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine and to refrain from any interference into the internal situation of foreign states.
“The visit will hopefully have also an impact on the parallel ongoing talks of the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France to end Russia’s intervention in southeast Ukraine, to reach a peace settlement and to concentrate on humanitarian aid for the suffering people in the region.”
“THIS VISIT SHOWS THE CHANGES IN THE GERMAN EASTERN POLICY”
Stefan MEISTER, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP):
“This visit it is like in Riga a symbolic trip which shows the changes in the German Eastern policy: German political decision makers have recognized, that there are beside Russia many other Eastern neighbors and that under the current conditions German foreign policy need to develop away from Russia and needs to invest more in countries like Ukraine. It is a support for the current Ukrainian leadership and a clear message to Moscow, that Germany will support Kyiv. Unless it is more a symbolic trip, I would not expect too much. More support with EU integration, humanitarian help for eastern Ukraine, but no military support. There are two reasons: firstly, Germany does not want provoke Russia and secondly, Ukraine is very close, these weapons might come in hands of groups which are also dangerous for the EU and Germany. Germany could help in training of the army, instruments and support for border control, but to rebuild Ukrainian army is from a German perspective a task of NATO and maybe the EU and not in particular the member states.
“Beside solidarity I think it is important for the German side at the moment to clarify, what kind of compromises the Ukrainian side is willing to make and how a solution with Russia could look like. We will observe in the next days and weeks an increasing diplomatic activity from the German side to bring a solution of the conflict forward. But all depends on the conflict parties.”
“DEMONSTRATION OF GERMANY’S SYMBOLIC SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE IN THESE HARD TIMES”
Mykola KAPITONENKO, executive director at the Center for International Relations Research, Kyiv:
“The significance of this visit of the leader of the EU’s most influential member state is profound. The visit as such during a conflict is a sign of support, and it is extremely important for us.
“On the other hand, the visit is important for Germany as well, because Merkel is in a complicated situation now due to an obvious lack of initiative in the EU’s joint foreign policy. The European Union simply cannot handle the situation that emerged in Ukraine. Germany, which is trying to undertake a role of one of the EU leaders, obviously has to take some steps in regulation of the situation. Since hoping for the EU institutions is pointless, Merkel takes the matter into her own hands. It is hard for her, because relations with Russia are a priority for Germany. That is why it is important for her to find a way out of the situation in order not to ruin bilateral relations between Germany and Russia. And if the situation becomes more complicated, Germany’s authority as the EU leader will be called into question.
“As for the visit’s agenda, it is the most likely that Germany will try to continue the dialog with Putin, perhaps, it will offer multilateral formats again, this time on the level of heads of states. Merkel will do everything to promote the idea of a dialog, not a confrontation. I think that possible signals are that Ukraine will not receive military help from NATO and the EU, and that it is not time for Ukraine to join NATO now. In other words, it is highly likely that Germany will adhere to the policy of so-called peacekeeping, which in reality is mere conniving with the aggressor.”
But the European press writes that Merkel took a firm stand in relation to Putin, and during her visit to Riga she said that the West’s economic sanctions against Russia, caused by the situation in Donbas, “must continue.”
“I do not think we can talk about the change in Germany’s political course, since it requires some time. But Germany’s position in regard to the conflict in Ukraine was determined in March and April, and Merkel sticks to it. It depends not solely on the chancellor, but on Germany’s economic interests. And such relations are of long-term nature.
“Only after pro-Russian separatists shot down the Malaysian liner, the situation was influenced immediately and rhetoric became harsher. But Germany still continues holding on to the previous position when it comes to specific steps and actions, that is, playing a role of an intermediary. I do not think we can expect any harsh steps against Putin on the one hand, and any energetic steps in support of Ukraine, on the other.”
Aren’t the statements that Germany will not provide military help, which Ukraine asks for, a sort of tolerance of the aggressor?
“Yes, this is exactly what can be viewed as a part of the peacekeeping strategy, for which Germany and the EU in general receive a lot of criticism in Ukraine. Berlin cannot make statements that it will support Ukraine with troops or arms, or just take a cooler diplomatic position towards Russia. Difficulties appear even there, since there possibly is a line of deterioration of relations with Russia, which Germany is not ready to cross now. And it makes it clear to Ukraine in the first place.
“The main meaning of the visit is symbolic. A visit on such a level to the capital of Ukraine on the eve of Independence Day demonstrates Germany’s symbolic support for Ukraine in these hard times. But I do not think it will get any more serious than that. On the other hand, it will be an important visit for Germany itself, for its role in the European Union, since it will mean interception of initiative from Brussels to Berlin. Brussels has not done anything in support of Ukraine, nor has it demonstrated any influence on the situation. So, the matter comes back to the state level, not institutional, which the EU tried to achieve. It is good old diplomacy between Europe’s largest capitals that will decide the fate of the conflict.”
How can you comment on Klimkin’s words that this visit “will be very interesting from the point of view of its content”?
“I am curious about the meaning of this too. I think that Klimkin, who worked as an ambassador in Berlin, might have some templates. Perhaps, some long-term plans are meant, which will be defined in a long-term perspective, or it relates to some steps of the Association Agreement implementation. Maybe, some specific steps in economic area will be taken. And this will be useful for Ukraine, of course. But as for military and political aspects and Germany’s role in the ongoing crisis, the visit will demonstrate a consolidation of Germany’s stand in this matter.”