A column by Sabine Rennefanz

Why the replacement of the Ukrainian ambassador was overdue, but German history lessons are superfluous.

The departure of Ukraine’s ambassador Andriy Melnyk was overdue, not because of his long-known admiration for the controversial nationalist leader Stepan Bandera , but because of his vanity and misconduct. Even his fans have had trouble defending him in recent weeks. As ambassador in Berlin, Melnyk is the wrong man in the wrong place.

In the future, he is to be reintegrated into the foreign office in Kyiv as deputy minister after seven years in Germany. A job that sounds good, but where you don’t appear as much to the outside world and, above all, give fewer interviews.

At the beginning of the war it seemed that Andriy Melnyka stroke of luck for the Ukrainians: eloquent, well connected, sharp-tongued. Melnyk got a lot of attention, fought for his country, which was attacked by a powerful neighbor. He struggled with interviews, tweets, talk show appearances. He gained his authority from the applause and affection of the public in solidarity with Ukraine. This is an unusual and risky strategy for diplomats who usually work in the background. But that worked in the first few weeks: there was great solidarity with Ukraine, many admired this country and its people who fought so
courageously against their aggressive neighbors. Their steadfastness contradicted everything known about Ukraine (not much). And this bold, nonconformist ambassador fit in with that.

Every morning you woke up with the anxious question: What did he say again? Whom did he insult now?

In the course of time, one could detect a radicalization in Melnyk, which one knows from other personalities who are in the public eye, a kind of intoxication. The more you polarize, the more invitations, requests, front pages you get. The greater the pressure to keep the number of bars, with more and more polemical statements. Every morning you woke up with the anxious question: What did he say again? Whom did he insult now?

Melnyk constantly broke the rules that politicians and diplomats in Berlin normally adhere to: he quoted from confidential conversations and embarrassed top politicians. He called a brigadier general and former Merkel adviser “a pathetic loser” and philosophers and writers who questioned the arms deliveries as “pseudo-intellectual failures “.

Melnyk dubbed Chancellor Scholz an “insulted liverwurst” because he initially did not travel to Kyiv because Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had been uninvited. It’s never wise to alienate those you depend on like that. It is not the yellow-blue Twitterers who approve the arms deliveries and aid payments, but the federal government.

The ever more radical formulations and outbursts of anger also wear off. You could call it the Greta Thunberg effect: constant threats often lead to the opposite, to fatigue. It is questionable how much Melnyk has achieved in terms of realpolitik. The German government’s decision to deliver heavy weapons after all is probably due less to Melnyk than to pressure from the USA.

In the meantime, the war has entered a new, more difficult phase. Interest in Ukraine is declining, as you can see in the news reports when you look at a site like SPIEGEL.de. The top issues are more domestic, such as price increases, gas supply, supply chains.

The willingness of the Europeans to support Ukraine at any price is also evidently flagging as domestic political pressure mounts. “My people will not sacrifice their jobs for the Donbass,” the New York Times quotes an important diplomat in Brussels as saying . The exaggeration of the war into a struggle between good and evil, which served to mobilize the West, is increasingly impeding an open debatte about a ceasefire, a possible end to the fighting and some kind of peace. It’s hard to imagine how Melnyk can play a
constructive role there.

The last big shit storm started when Melnyk said Bandera wasn’t a mass murderer. Anyone who claims that is spreading Russian propaganda. Stepan Bandera was the leader of the radical wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in the 1930s and 1940s, which wanted to establish a fascist state in Ukraine. His people took part in the murder of tens of thousands of civilians under the German occupation. Melnyk’s devotion to Bandera is not an outsider’s opinion in Ukraine. There are more than 40 monuments in the country, says the Berlin historian Götz Aly . He describes Bandera as an anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator.

The Ukrainian government immediately distanced itself because Melnyk’s words played into the hand of Moscow propaganda about the fight against a Nazi regime in Kyiv and strained the relationship with the most important ally, Poland. In Germany, too, many got upset and called Melnyk a Holocaust denier, which again overshot the mark.

It is correct to talk about Ukrainian history and to broach the issue of Bandera’s role. Nevertheless, I have a bad feeling when the Germans, of all people, point the finger at Melnyk like a high school teacher, but often don’t know themselves what their grandfathers did in World War II . Many also resonate with a certain glee that Ukraine may not be the superhero country it was made to be for a while.

In the Federal Republic (West), the comprehensive coming to terms with the Holocaust began in the 1980s, after forty years of peace, democracy and prosperity. Ukraine as an independent state has only existed for three decades, with all the problems that the other ex-Soviet republics also have, oligarchic rule, corruption. Then 2013 revolution, loss of Crimea, war in Donbass. “What Ukraine has gone through in the last three years has been going through in other countries for decades, if not centuries,”
journalist Stanislav Aseyev wrote in 2017, before the great war. There’s a lot to work on. But for this to happen, the country must continue to exist as a nation in its own right.

Quelle: https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/andrij-melnyk-botschafter-der-ukraine-in-deutschland-der-falsche-mann-am-falschen-ort-kolumne-a-3193078e-b246-4a45-832c-603e215a6a59