Just in time for the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia, a German former chancellor adviser speaks of Ukrainian presidents as "rags". Horst Teltschik, who advised Chancellor Helmut Kohl at the time of reunification, referred not only to the president, who is so called by many Ukrainians themselves, namely to the fallen in the 2014 Maidan uprising Viktor Yanukovych, but to "all".
This assessment is interesting for two reasons. First, the chooses Ukraine actually a new president in a week, and you have to look carefully who. Second, Horst Teltschik is not someone, but as an ex-foreign politician and former head of the Munich Security Conference, representative of the German foreign policy elite. He is passed around by talk shows and book publishers. How is the arrogant and degrading tone explained to the Eastern European country Ukraine?
In a week the Ukrainians choose their new president. In the polls lies the actor and comedian Volodymyr Selenskyj, whose political experience lies in the fact that he plays the president. It is followed by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the incumbent Petro Poroshenko, Selenskyj's leadership seems rather slanted from a German point of view, just as the numerous leftover reform projects in Ukraine are doing. As before, oligarchs have too much influence that rampant corruption in the country.
Old German stereotypes
But there is no reason for arrogance from the outside. Ukraine is a country that is in a war imposed by Moscow. And yet, Kiev freely chooses, speaks freely, writes freely and freely discusses. Poroshenko does not go over dead bodies of the opposition, he has invaded also no neighbor country. And the best: The election result is not fixed from the outset. That's a lot more than you would expect from Russia can expect.
So why this arrogance? Horst Telschik is not an isolated case. Let's take ex-SPD foreign minister Erhard Eppler, who has called Ukraine a "best-case state." A German ex-Chancellor said that Ukraine was not a "nation state", nor a nation. Alexander Neu of the Left recently said Ukraine's sovereignty is "a three-year-old child, depending on his mum".
Behind these stereotypes hides three things. First, amnesia. Teltschik, Eppler and others rightly point out how much Russia suffered during the Second World War under the German attack. Unfortunately, they do not mention that, above all, the Soviet republics Ukraine and Belarus were the main battlefields with the most victims and destruction. To say the least, does not relativize the German crimes against the Russians.
Second, such statements reveal a very questionable superiority attitude toward an Eastern European country. "Chronic mismanagement", "incomplete statehood", "inability to state organization" – these are old German stereotypes towards the Slavs. You can read this in Lew Kopelews excellent West-Eastern Reflections,
Third, such slogans recall the generous wink between Berlin and Moscow, which too often ignored the smaller Eastern European nations. Molotov-Ribbentrop was the brutal expansion variant. The relaxation variants of West German Ostpolitik were Brandt-Brezhnev, Schmidt-Brezhnev and Kohl-Gorbachev. Talking to greats was a reality in the Cold War. Just those of Teltschik and Eppler.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas did not get much trouble in the SPD when he started talking about a "European Ostpolitik" in 2018. Aligning Ostpolitik to all Eastern Europeans, and not just to Moscow, is apparently still getting used to for parts of the German elite. It is not only Putin's time, 28 years after the demise of the Soviet empire, finally coming to an end.