On Monday, July 12, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky paid a visit to Germany, where he met and held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Later in the day, he was supposed to have a conversation with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, but the meeting was canceled, with no reasons reported. There was only a one-word message posted on the German Defense Ministry's website – "canceled". It was expected to feature negotiations on the Donbass situation. No haps, probably.
It is worth pointing out right away that Zelensky's visit to Germany has taken place during a tough time in relations between Berlin and Kiev. An atmosphere of certain disappointment and trust deficiency has developed between the two countries following a number of Berlin's friendly gestures towards Moscow. Thus, Frau Merkel quite recently suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin be invited to the EU summit. In turn, President Steinmeier chose a place associated with Russia to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Germany's attack against the USSR, which treaded on Ukraine's corns. Finally, the Nord Stream 2 project has obtained political approval in Germany and will be ready for start-up in August. Which fact does not satisfy Kiev anyway. The German Frankfurter Rundschau radio station, citing Ukrainian politician Olexandr Donii, said Zelensky's invitation to Berlin was an "apology" for Nord Stream 2.
Whichever way you slice it, last Monday saw President Zelensky meet with his German counterpart Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel. Ahead of these meetings, information appeared that Kiev expects to get sizeable compensation from Germany for the launch of Nord Stream 2. This involves billions of euros. Ukraine will obviously see the color of money, after all. Although much less than they'd love to. Especially given that the Germans see money allocated to Kiev go down a black hole, without being invested anywhere. Therefore, Berlin will take a conservative approach in this matter.
Here it is reasonable to ask one question: does a bankrupt, which Ukraine is at the moment, have the right to demand anything at all? Much less a compensation for the Russian Nord Stream 2 project. Apparently, both Moscow and Berlin do apprehend this. However, for all that, the "Ukraine project" is landmark to the West, including Germany. In particular, it serves to show Russia and its citizens that Ukraine's European choice is the right one. Although in fact, the very idea of Kiev's integration into Europe goes up in smoke. The same Germans do not like theft and bribery flourishing in Ukraine. Neither do they appreciate the absence of supervision by the Ukrainian president over neo-Nazi battalions. And still, Kiev will get its aid, though apportioned.
However, the Nord Stream 2 project was not the only agenda point of Zelensky's Berlin talks with the German leadership. The parties carefully considered the coronavirus situation, the progress of Ukraine's anti-corruption reforms, and touched upon the challenge of resolving the Donbass conflict. In particular, at her joint press conference with Zelensky, Angela Merkel said Ukraine would remain a transit country for Germany even after Nord Stream 2 completion. She promised consistent support for Ukraine as regards the transit of gas. Moreover, Merkel pointed to the need of implementing the Steinmeier Formula in Ukrainian legislation and hold elections in the Donbass. "Germany will continue to advocate progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements," the Chancellor emphasized.
As for Germany's relations with Russia, Berlin made it clear to Zelensky that the issue is none of Kiev's business. It is up to Berlin to decide what kind of relations to build with Moscow. Zelensky is obviously not the one Russian-German relations depend on, and Merkel's resignation won't disrupt them. But Germany needs Ukraine as a means of pressure against Russia. Germany itself. Without anyone's guidance from across the ocean. It should be noted that partnership existing between Moscow and Berlin is not that quiet, sometimes even spiraling into a keen competition.
For instance, our interests interfere with each other in the post-Soviet space and partly in the Balkans. And here, Germany does need Ukraine, even its time-worn gas transportation system, as a key pressure factor against Moscow. Both to turn up the heat on Russia at a certain point and secure the result required, and to have room for maneuver as regards exploiting the Nord Stream pipeline.
In general, Zelensky's trip to Germany showed the world that the president of Ukraine is politically hopeless, with his authority among Western "partners" limited to being used as an errand runner. For which reason, apparently, German Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer gave up on meeting with him.
Speaking about Zelensky's visit to Germany, which also features discussions of Russia, we cannot but mention Vladimir Putin's article on Russian-Ukrainian relations published on the Kremlin website on July 12 and titled "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians". The Russian leader made it absolutely clear: "Russia has never been and will never be 'anti-Ukraine'. And what Ukraine will be – it is up to its citizens to decide." At that, the head of state is confident that "true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia." He explained that "spiritual, human and civilizational ties" between the two countries have been forming for centuries. They "have their origins in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories."
At the same time, the Russian leader stressed that " Russia is open to dialogue with Ukraine and ready to discuss the most complex issues. But it is important for us to understand that our partner is defending its national interests but not serving someone else's, and is not a tool in someone else's hands to fight against us." In this regard, Vladimir Putin noted the following: "Step by step, Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning Ukraine into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia. Inevitably, there came a time when the concept of 'Ukraine is not Russia' was no longer an option. There was a need for the 'anti-Russia' concept which we will never accept."
According to Vladimir Putin, "all the subterfuges associated with the anti-Russia project are clear to us. And we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia. And to those who will undertake such an attempt, I would like to say that this way they will destroy their own country."