Most people have known him since the start of the Ukraine war at the latest: Volodymyr Zelenskyj. Largely unfiltered, his Ukraine First policy is flooding the news channels. At least in the media, the President is pulling through, even if the mood begins to change.
Every age has its ghosts and the zeitgeist of our time looks like Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He is President of Ukraine and the most influential influencer of our time.
He uses social media like it was invented for him. Hardly a day goes by without a live link to the European Parliament, the Knesset or the senators who are awaiting him on Capitol Hill. Since the Russian army invaded his country, people have been tweeting back mercilessly: politics with a digital megaphone and in olive green.
Selenskyj does nothing less than mobilize the West. He constantly demands new billions and heavy weapons for his country. His words are the heaviest weapon he can use in this unequal battle.
Selenskyj is drastic in substance and harsh in tone. He is willfully undifferentiated. And he shoots sharp at anyone who doesn’t share his opinion. The zeitgeist appears in it as a poltergeist. He says sentences that a few months ago would have been denounced as relativizing the Nazi era.
Putin wants “the final solution to the Ukrainian question”. Putin will only stop “when he has reached Berlin”. Putin wants genocide. Putin is worse than Hitler, “because his objectives are even more perfidious than Hitler’s,” says Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk.
The world – viewed through Zelenskyi’s glasses – is divided into those who oppose Putin and those who support Putin, with the latter counting all those who have sought and found a compromise with Russia over the past few decades. Selenskyj equates the détente policy of Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl, Schröder and Merkel with the appeasement policy of British Prime Minister Chamberlain.
In his fury, Selenskyj suppresses the fact that the German policy of détente ultimately led to the fall of the Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and reunification in Germany, while the British prime minister’s policy of appeasement favored Hitler’s rise. Or to put it another way: Selenskyj is trying to sell the apple as a pear, which he is currently doing well.
Largely unfiltered, his Ukraine First policy is flooding the news channels. At least in the media, Selenskyj pulls through, even if the mood begins to change. Many are bothered by the fact that thoughtfulness is translated here as naivety.
While the world rightly turned up its nose at Donald Trump and his “America First” policy because one of them made his interests absolutely absolute and denied responsibility for living together with other nations, in the case of Zelenskyj it is precisely this one-sidedness that is seen as an act of celebrated resistance. In both cases it is about ideological exaggeration.
Trump legitimately wanted to save the American worker from outsourcing – and ebulliently rejected free trade, the United Nations and NATO.
Understandably, Selenskyj defends himself against an aggressor – and exaggeratedly terminates the friendship with everyone who has historically been concerned with reconciliation and the integration of Russia and who want to continue to strive.
He wants NATO to defend the airspace over Ukraine for him. He wants German tanks to fire on Russian soldiers. He wants the West to get involved in Ukraine as if there were no yesterday and no tomorrow in coexistence with Russia.
Thus, Putin’s war not only shifted geographical, but also ethical boundaries. Which brings us to Olaf Scholz: he doesn’t lack the will, but he does lack the talent for communication, to draw the politically necessary boundary with the Ukrainian president: Ukraine’s interests are not the interests of the Germans: the Federal Republic supports the freedom struggle of the oppressed Ukrainians, but it is not at war with Russia.
We want to help push back Putin’s army, but not catapult Russia into the economic Stone Age. We can only risk limited war, but never want total war. Volodymyr Zelenskyy lives a life of political one-dimensionality, which explains his worldwide popularity. The communities on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are its natural settlement areas.
But the Realpolitiker lives on another planet. He respects Zelenskyy. But he must not follow him in his zealous totality. He must insist on his sovereignty. Or to put it bluntly: Berlin is not a suburb of Kyiv.
Gabor Steingart is one of the best-known journalists in the country. He publishes the newsletter The Pioneer Briefing. The podcast of the same name is Germany’s leading daily podcast for politics and business. Since May 2020, Steingart has been working with his editorial staff on the ship “The Pioneer One”. Before founding Media Pioneer, Steingart was, among other things, Chairman of the Management Board of the Handelsblatt Media Group. You can subscribe to his free newsletter here.