When thinking of a firm and longstanding friend of Ukraine, one name comes immediately to mind — that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The German leader, who met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Meseberg in eastern Germany on May 20, is the only leader of the biggest four European countries, Germany, France, Britain, and Italy, who has been in office continuously since Russia launched its war in Ukraine in February 2014.
And with the election of Donald J. Trump as U.S. president on Nov. 8, Merkel has taken on the role of the West’s foremost opponent of Ukraine’s nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was Merkel, along with the former French President Francois Hollande, who was the architect of the Minsk peace process. With the exit of Hollande from the world stage earlier this month, she is, therefore, more politically invested than any other Western leader in seeing that the Minsk peace process succeeds.
And Merkel, like no other Western leader, understands the threat Ukraine faces. Although born in Hamburg, West Germany, she grew up in communist East Germany and learned to speak Russian fluently. Her relationship with Putin (who speaks German) is based on the kind of understanding, at least in linguistic terms, unrivaled by any other Western leader.
She has referred to Putin as “living in another world.” She wasn’t implying that Putin was crazy, but was referring to his worldview — imperialist, Soviet-revanchist and embittered. She no doubt understands that it is this worldview that has prompted his wars against Georgia and Ukraine and his threats to the Baltic states — former Soviet republics that have, since the fall of the Soviet Union, shaken off the shackles of centuries of Russian domination with membership in NATO and the European Union.
Merkel is also up for re-election in autumn, and will face a direct threat from Putin himself: There is little doubt that the Kremlin, as it has done in recent Western elections, will seek to influence the vote, promoting its favored candidates with its propaganda media. It will also probably release stolen and falsified data hacked from the computers of German political parties in an effort to sway voters.
Putin will not favor Merkel, so it is to be hoped that, as in France, the Kremlin’s efforts to meddle in Western democracy fail. “Mutti,” as the German chancellor is affectionately known, will hopefully emerge victorious (although Martin Schulz is also an acceptable contender), and remain one of Ukraine’s best friends in the West for years to come.
Order of Yaroslav The Wise