by Katja Hoyer
Thursday, 5
May 2022
Explainer
16:30

Why Olaf Scholz stopped acting like a ‘sulky sausage’

The German Chancellor may finally be travelling to Ukraine
by Katja Hoyer
Credit: Getty

Calling someone a ‘sulky liver sausage’ may sound more like something out of a script for Blackadder rather than an example of European diplomacy. But when the Ukrainian ambassador in Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, used those words to describe the German chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier this week, they appear to have forced the government into making an effort to patch things up between Berlin and Kyiv. 

Scholz had declared in a TV interview this week that he had no plans to travel to Kyiv to see the Ukrainian president because the German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was snubbed last month. The Chancellor has since claimed that the rescinded invitation of his party colleague was not a personal affront to him but “a problem for the German people too”.

However, Zelenskyy’s snub against Steinmeier was targeted at the president personally, not “the German people”. When Crimea was annexed in 2014, Steinmeier, then foreign minister, had been a key architect of the lacklustre German response to this act of aggression. He has also long been a proponent of Nord Stream 2 and was seen to have very friendly relations with senior Russian politicians like Sergey Lavrov. While he has recently expressed some regret over his past actions, it is his political legacy that Zelenskyy rejected, not the country as a whole.

Indeed, other German politicians have felt less affronted than Scholz and travelled to Ukraine irrespective of the chancellor’s views. Opposition leader, Friedrich Merz, who now runs Angela Merkel’s CDU party, arrived in Kyiv by night train on Tuesday. Of course, the trip was a perfect PR stunt aimed at domestic audiences as much as Ukraine. ‘Opposition overtakes government in sleeper train’ was too good a headline to miss.

While neither Melnyk’s insult nor Merz’s stunt will offer much help to Zelenskyy, they are nevertheless effective in maintaining domestic pressure on the government to do more. And it seems to have worked. President Steinmeier spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart on the phone today and his office reported that this “very important” conversation had led to an invitation of ‘the entire German leadership’ to Kyiv, including Steinmeier himself.

This is indeed a “very important” step in the right direction. That Germany still can and should do a lot more to hamper Putin’s war is clear. The country continues to pay an average of 116 million euros to Russia every single day — a figure that even surpasses pre-war levels. While exports to Russia have been severely reduced, imports from there to Germany have increased — to 3.6 billion euros in March alone, 44% higher than in the previous year. By comparison, support for Ukraine has only amounted to half that figure, 1.8 billion euros.

While it may not have been the most diplomatic approach, Melnyk was quite right to point out that, “this is the most brutal war…not a kindergarten.” Scholz and Steinmeier may have been personally affronted by the snub against the president but hurt feelings cannot be allowed to be the basis of German foreign policy while a brutal war is raging in Europe. If the ambassador’s unconventional approach has pushed Steinmeier into swallowing his pride and talk things through with Zelenskyy, then that is to be applauded. More German help in Ukraine is urgently needed.

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David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago

“A sulky liver sausage.” If you think that’s an insult, try looking at what de Gaulle had to say about his wartime allies. In the case of de Gaulle, it was not mindless rudeness, but a ruthless determination, when armed with very few political weapons, to remind the world that France mattered.
The same can be said about Ukraine. It is engaged in a battle for survival, and victory is far from assured. It needs more than warm words of support. Basically, the insult was designed to get Scholz to shift his backside. He can expect more pungent language when he gets to Kyiv.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

The United States is undergoing rapid demographic change. By 2040, Western culture in this nation will decline to the status of a minority culture, and this country will cease being a Western nation. Hispanic culture will become the dominant culture. (In California, Western culture is already rejected by most residents, and Hispanic culture dominates.)

Germany must replace the United States as the leader of the West. German chancellor Olaf Scholz must begin taking steps in that direction.

As for Ukraine, Berlin should demand and obtain assurances (from Volodymyr Zelenskyy) that the Ukrainians will modernize their nation. They have been too corrupt and incompetent for too long. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of Ukraine in 2019 was actually less than the GDP per capita (at purchasing-power parity) in 1991.

IF President Zelenskyy provides these assurances, then the military strategists in the Bundeswehr should determine the weapons and military strategy that are needed to expel the Russian military from Ukraine. Then, Berlin should provide a financial loan to Kyiv so that it can purchase the necessary weapons, and German military instructors should train Ukrainians on using the weapons.

Get more info about another area in which Berlin can show leadership.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
William Adams
William Adams
1 month ago
Reply to  M. M.

“Hispanic culture” isn’t Western culture? I suggest that you invest in an atlas and a book on European history. As for Germany leading the West, they tried that several times with, er, shall we say, unfortunate results. You’ll find those episodes in your history book as well.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago
Reply to  William Adams

There are numerous differences between Hispanic culture and Western culture.

One difference is the Hispanic demand for preferential treatment.

Get more info about this issue.