Interview in the Kyivpost: "We Are Afraid of What Comes After Putin"
Alexander Müller, a German politician of the Free Democratic Party and a member of the Defense Committee of the Bundestag, came to Ukraine at the of February to discuss the war situation. He is interested in what Ukrainians think about Germany and what their expectations of his country are. In an exclusive interview with Kyiv Post, Muller spoke about what Germans say about the Russian war against Ukraine, the general support of Germans for Ukraine, and why he believes talking with Putin is the right decision on the off chance Putin has a sudden change of mind. Finally, he discusses worries about what may come after Putin.
On the 24th of February we had the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. How do you feel about it? What do people in Germany think about the war?
We feel solidarity with Ukrainians. We clearly see that Ukrainians aren’t helpless victims in this war, and we want to be on your side, to help you protect yourself, protect your freedom. We admire the pride of Ukrainians. How you have reacted against Russia, not being fearful but standing your ground. Fighting back against the Russians is very admirable. Germany is in solidarity with Ukraine and is helping Ukraine.
Do you agree that Germans are tired of the war?
Some are, but only a few. A minority in Germany.
I think we all feel bad. We all want this war to end. But in different ways. We have right wing-nationalists and left-wing nationalists. They want to stop the support for Ukrainians. They say: “Let them do what they want. We are not interested in this and we do not want to participate and help.” But these are only some extremists.
The democratic parties in Germany generally say: we have to support Ukraine, we have to help. It’s a matter of stability for all Europe if Ukraine wins. Europe will not be more peaceful if Russia wins. This is an important matter for us. And that’s what democratic parties in Germany think. And the people of Germany also think this way. About 70 percent favor the way we support Ukraine. Only about 30 percent say “that’s enough” or “we should reduce our support.”
Do you think support for Ukraine will become politically toxic in Germany any time soon? Toxic for the Free Democratic Party internally or the Bundestag?
It could become toxic, but it isn’t currently. Currently our support is very big. It could become toxic depending on how things work out. I could see a potential problem if, for example, Putin now comes to the floor and says: “Let’s end this war, let’s just freeze where we are.” And this would be a really toxic gift. Because many in Germany would be happy to end the war not understanding what it means to stop at this point and in this situation and give him what he has already taken in an act of war. That would be a big problem – because this would be a bad peace. I think a lot of people in Germany understand this. But I’m afraid this could become a toxic discussion.
I guess Germans have a big opportunity to destroy Russian nationalism through supporting Ukraine.
But we are also afraid of what comes after Putin. If Putin loses power suddenly, those who come after him would not be any better. It could be Medvedev, Prigozhin, Gerasymov. They are all worse. We cannot see things changing for the better in Russia. So we are afraid of what comes after Putin.
We see the possibility that the Russian Federation could dissolve. There could be separatist regions, which might secede from Russia. Nobody knows.
I think when Ukraine wins something will happen in Russia, but we don’t know what exactly.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he is ready to continue calling Putin even though these conversations will be not productive. Do you think it’s the right decision?
Talking is always good. You never know when he might change his mind. Perhaps the day will come when Putin is open to discussion, for some kind of compromise, for a plan on how he can leave Ukraine. And therefore because of that possibility it’s always good to talk with him. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. Perhaps some day something will change.
Is Putin a dictator or a loser?
Some politicians are sure that former chancellor Angela Merkel helped Putin prepare for war against Ukraine. What are your thoughts?
She did not want this. But she accidentally did help. When she refused to accept Ukraine into NATO in 2008 she meant well. She thought because Sevastopol in Crimea would be surrounded by NATO, Russia would react immediately when the announcement would be made that Ukraine would join NATO.
She anticipated what Russia did in Crimea and Donbas in 2014 immediately after Yanukovich’s removal. She was afraid of this.
She thought perhaps Putin would behave friendly if we behaved friendly to him. So she didn’t want it, but unwittingly she helped pave the way to the fullscale invasion.
You were one of the German politicians who called for more weapons for Ukraine. What do you think about the current situation? Ukraine needs many weapons, but we get a lot of promises and fewer weapons than needed for the counterattack.
In Germany we don’t have many weapons. That’s the truth. Scholz has always drawn a red line and said “you can have these weapons but not the Leopard”. And we worked on him, we urged him. And suddenly in the middle of January he finally gave in on the Leopards and re-drew the red lines.
So we are glad about this. Now we have to provide a limited number of tanks. We do not have many in Germany.
We have a European coalition and are talking about who will deliver and how many tanks. Ukraine needs Leopard tanks. That’s our task currently.
Another task that we have in Germany now is production time to in-hands status. When you order a new Leopard tank today it would take 2.5-3 years for the new tanks to be delivered. This is too long. And we need constant deliveries. So we must be faster.
Within the German army and the Bundestag, are there any pro-Russian supporters or promoters?
We have pro-Russian supporters. I would say 10 percent of people in the Bundestag. And I don’t understand them. But that’s only the extremists - the communists and the nazis. It’s not the democratic members. The democratic parties are clean. I can assure you.
And in the German army?
I don’t think so. We sometimes have problems with-right wing people in the German army. And we have a solution to this problem: throw them out of the military. But I don’t think we have Russian-friendly guys in the armed forces. I’ve never heard about it.