“Since 2015, it can be said that Germany has been doing practically the same to Poland as Putin to Ukraine, of course not by such brutal methods,” says Prof. Bogdan Musiał, a historian who lives in Germany.
wPolityce.pl: German journalists suddenly woke up from a long sleep and looked at Russia and Vladimir Putin with entirely different eyes than before …
Prof. Bogdan Musiał: With Polish eyes. Not through the eyes of Donald Tusk, of course, but through the eyes of President Kaczyński or Prime Minister Morawiecki.
What does this change result from? Were they really blinded during this time, and did they not understand the reality, or were there other factors involved?
There were voices in Germany warning against this. It wasn’t that these voices weren’t there. There were specialists, journalists, and scientists who warned against this. They cautioned against Nord Stream 1, against Nord Stream 2, but they did not break into the mainstream because that was the policy of the media. We must be aware that in Germany, the media are not independent (very much under the rigors of Gleichschaltung), so the message was supposed to be communicated in a certain way and not another, and it was done this way. There were texts, for example, in Die Welt, but this was not something that would impact the broadly-understood public opinion. The voice of the politicians was decisive, especially the SPD and the CDU, and theirs was the message in these main media. So, it went down to the general public. This main message was blinded — pro-Putin, pro-Russian: with the message that this economic cooperation is purely economic and has no political overtones. This message was, of course, ordered in advance — an order from the chancellor’s office. And they followed that order. Only what happened in Ukraine, these photos, the reaction and attitude of the Ukrainians caused such a shock that the media can no longer sweep it under the rug. These are photos and videos that evoke powerful emotions, including the speeches of President Zelensky. It seems they have a powerful message here on this plane, and it has shocked many journalists, let alone ordinary people. People wonder how it is even possible for Schroeder to have browned up on Putin like that. Now it comes out and is emphasized because suddenly, the media are writing about it.
This awakening also came up very strongly — from the bottom. The German government, in particular Mr. Scholz, who came from the pro-Putin SPD — because it is not that only Chancellor Merkel did it with her people, but also the entire SPD, which is very pro-Putin, and this will certainly not change quickly, because it is in a sense geopolitical thinking. The mood will not change it quickly. They cannot afford to actually support Putin for image reasons, which they have done so far. They must now absolutely change the message, which has not yet translated into giving specific aid to Ukraine. Still, the message is that Germany cannot show leniency in relations with Putin. But they will block more severe sanctions and shout that war is impossible, a threat, etc. However, note there is no such hysterical attack on Poland. It more or less ended, but it was forced from below. They can no longer repeat what they have been doing all this time in recent years, since 2015, because it is unbelievable — German’s ally Putin is simply a criminal. Everyone can see it. These photos are shocking.
Personally, I do not believe the politicians of the SPD because they think in different categories. This has to be forced by the countries from the outside, and this pressure has to come from the outside plus the bottom, that is, from the German public opinion, in which there has really been a breakthrough, at least in a large part. I also hope that this will change quickly. Importantly, I don’t think the SPD will rule that long. It seems, however, that the CDU will regain power sooner or later, and this is a party that will sooner be more credible in changing its policy towards Russia than the SPD. Why? Because the CDU is undergoing demerkelization, i.e., saying goodbye to Angela Merkel’s policies. What she did there is a catastrophe. The CDU will create this policy change sooner. These vectors will be more credible, but a lot will depend on how the situation in Ukraine develops. It’s hard to judge; Poland keeps its fingers crossed and supports Ukraine as it can, but it is challenging to forecast. Nevertheless, the changes are going in a positive direction, although it is still not enough from our point of view.
In the German media, it is a shock to see how the coalition parties, i.e., the SPD or the Greens, dealt with Zelensky’s speech to the Bundestag. There was criticism, embarrassment, and shame. This showed how seriously they are taking what is happening in Ukraine.
Analyzing the statements of individual German politicians and diplomats since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I have the impression that the German government now has a serious problem. It seems that it hoped that Russia would deal with Ukraine quickly and that Germany would move to business as usual. How do you see it?
Exactly. That was precisely the concept. They were convinced that Ukraine would collapse like a house of cards, the Ukrainian army, that the Ukrainian government would collapse, and that Yanukovych or someone like him would come in his place. And they would be critical of what happened. That’s what took place after the Belarus conflict. And then there would be no problem. Of course, it would be necessary to wait because of the sanctions, which would be eased as much as possible to not harm themselves, but also protecting Putin’s Russia. That was the plan. That was the intention. The shock is just the same for Putin. They completely miscalculated. They underestimated the Ukrainian stance. In Poland, I continually heard that the Ukrainian army is not the army from 2015. There were such voices in Poland. The Polish government knew war would break out and was prepared for it. After all, two weeks before the Russian aggression, Prime Minister Morawiecki said that Poland was preparing to accept refugees.
Yesterday I also heard —this is emphasized especially by politicians from the CDU and CSU — that for them, it is a shock to see Poland’s attitude towards accepting refugees, as it is well organized. I have a comparison with Poland and Germany, and this is as the difference between heaven and earth. This is really such a difference! As far as I know, there are already 2 million of these refugees in Poland. For the Germans, amazingly, Poland copes with it very well compared to what is happening in Germany — this is what the leader of the CDU, Merz, emphasized. He was at the border. He saw what was happening. The scale of this problem is entirely different. In Germany, a country that is several times richer and larger than Poland, there are 160,000 refugees, and they are not quite coping with this number. This is a huge difference. I think that Poles show a repeat of “Solidarity” — only in a different form. This is amazing! Nobody expected this. However, this is a specificity of Poland. Such a repetition of history, only in a different context.
Let us hope that Poland will not allow Germany to trash this accomplishment of ours. We cannot allow Germans to falsify history again. Germany is responsible for this war, and they have blood on their hands. I am talking about German politicians because it is a shock for everyday Germans, the awareness that Germany is responsible for this, that the German government, the ruling party, and the SPD have blood on their hands. And these voices are heard. We have to emphasize it because it really is so. The German political elite has blood on their hands, not only of Ukrainian children. We must emphasize this. We cannot let it go because they will twist history again, make heroes of themselves, and expect the Nobel Prize, like in 2015, when Germany was disappointed that Angela Merkel did not receive the 2015 Nobel Prize.
I think they believed in their own propaganda and lies, and they shaped this policy on their lies. They need to have it be pointed out that Germany’s eastern policy is a threat to peace in Europe, and it has always been so — starting from the 20th century, if not before.
The question of what else is Germany responsible for, because looking at what is happening in the European Union, that despite the difficult situation in which Poland finds itself due to the need to accept refugees and the threat to its eastern borders, it still has not received the money it is owed, leaving the funds for the refugees aside?
But look at who is shaping politics in the European Union. For example, Ms. Katarina Barley, who was the Minister of Justice in Mrs. Merkel’s government. She is from the SPD. She gave interviews to “Russia Today,” where she emphasized how important a partner Russia is. It was 2019! Today she is the vice-president of the European Parliament, this pro-Putin Ms. Barley of the SPD! She believed in the German propaganda about Willie Brandt’s kneeling, about Germany’s eastern policy. She believes that on May 8, 1945, Germany was liberated. Ms. Barley, both pro-Putin and anti-Polish, shapes the EU’s policy towards Poland.
And Mrs. von der Leyen? Mrs. von der Leyen was the Minister of Defense in Mrs. Merkel’s government. It was she who ruined the Bundeswehr. She pursued a pro-Putin, practically anti-Polish policy because, since 2015, Germany can be said to be doing almost the same with Poland as Putin with Ukraine, of course not so brutally, but using gentler methods.
Germany also dreams of having its own Yanukovych in Poland, which is what Putin wants in Ukraine. For Germany, this Yanukovych is Mr. Donald Tusk. Putin would also accept it. Let Yanukovych rule, and then he would let Ukraine go. Germany would also let Poland off the hook if Donald Tusk was ruling Poland. I see a certain convergence here, but of course, Germany cannot afford such brutal violence. It uses soft methods – financial and propaganda slandering the Polish government.
Do you know what a shock it was for the average German viewer when they suddenly saw Deputy Prime Minister Kaczyński in Kyiv and heard his words? Do you know what a cognitive shock this is for an average German viewer? Amazing, because they have such a message regarding President Kaczyński, as Tomasz Lis or “Gazeta Wyborcza” does — primitive and blind. That’s their message. Suddenly there is a shock that Deputy Prime Minister Kaczyński is in Kyiv and says words that are understandable to many. There are already voices that say that the attitude of Germany and the West of failure to help, and that failure to help is punishable under German law. And the Germans do just that. The German government not only did not help but supported the criminals, which was even worse. Thus they became partners. And for them, the message from the visit of the Polish prime minister, deputy prime minister, and the heads of governments of Slovenia and the Czech Republic coming from Kyiv was really a shock. It appeared in the major newspapers. They have been taught that Putin is a great guy, albeit tough, while the attitude toward Mr. Kaczyński has been what it has been, so it is a cognitive shock for them.
Does this German-Russian cooperation and the fact that Germany — as you rightly pointed out — has blood on their hands have the potential to bury Germany’s dreams of creating an EU superstate under its aegis?
Yes. These are only forecasts, but Germany has been so discredited in the international arena that this policy has become visible to everyone, not only to Prime Minister Morawiecki or President Kaczyński. This eastern policy of Germany has been so exposed that it will be difficult for them to dominate EU policy. For I am convinced that the policy of the United States will also change, and although Germany will remain an important partner for the United States, it is seen now that it is not a real partner when it comes to eastern policy, and that Putin’s Russia is a threat because it is not coming just from Putin himself. The problem is that the majority of Russians support this policy, which proves that Russia genuinely is a threat. It is necessary to change the long-term approach of the EU towards Russia, and here the role of Poland as a front-line state in cooperation with the Baltic States, or hopefully that Ukraine also has the potential to change the deal when it comes to foreign policy. The role of Poland should be and probably will be much greater. The first steps are already visible — the United Kingdom offered a military and political alliance with Ukraine and Poland before the invasion because Germany could not be trusted. Germany is so strongly putinized, schroederized, that there is a real need for political change. I think that it is only possible with the CDU when it comes to Germany. The CDU —despite Mrs. Merkel — is more realistic. In my opinion, the SPD is totally discredited. I think that the voices of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia will be heard more. I don’t think it will change any time soon — a lot will depend on how it ends. This sounds terrible because everyone wants this war to end, but the more Ukrainian casualties there are, the more difficult it will be for the Germans to withdraw from it. There will be an accounting for this one day because there are voices outside Europe that they cannot be forgiven. We cannot let them go, in that their Eastern policy is simply so irrational. This is not Realpolitik, as they claim; it is simply a primitive, selfish, and, in fact, a criminal policy because if you support criminals, it is criminal. To close ones eyes to the facts and support these bandits because they are bandits is, in my opinion, a crime. And there are such voices.
We cannot allow Germany to create this federation because that would mean that Germany would completely dominate foreign policy, which would simply be the end for Europe. Personally, I am a supporter of the concept of George Friedman, who already indicated years ago that the role of Poland would change. It is changing before our eyes. The role of Poland in Europe and the world has suddenly changed a lot, and this is not due to the opposition but to the party in power today.
Thank you for the conversation.
Interview conducted by Anna Wiejak