The Polish cartoon denigrates Schulze, but it hits a sensitive nerve

Comment from Ulrich Reitz: Polish caricature denigrates Scholz, but hits a sensitive nerve

It is a unique event: in the middle of a war, the head of an allied country criticizes two allied heads of government for their dealings with the enemy, whom the three are fighting. Polish President Duda’s criticism of Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron is unprecedented, but more than that: unwise, lacking in solidarity and unhistoric. The head of state of Poland is playing the Putin game.

Should Schulz and Macron call Putin? Often? Or should they leave it because they are pursuing a policy of “appeasement” – the policy that made Adolf Hitler’s war of conquest possible in the first place? In general: is Putin equal to Hitler?

Polish cartoons and provocative statements by the President of Poland

There is now a cartoon from the Polish news magazine “Wprost”. Schulz and Macron are talking in one of the shells of an oversized telephone receiver, the other shell is full of blood and Putin is sitting in this lake of blood. The caricature is sharp, it hurts the nerve.

Polish President Duda comments on the situation in an interview with “Bild” correspondent Paul Runzheimer: “I am amazed at all the conversations that are taking place with Putin at the moment. Written by Chancellor Schulz, for President Emmanuel Macron. These conversations are useless. What do they do? They just legitimize the person responsible for the crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine”.

Exciting, but you don’t have time now?

Aside from the fact that talking, even with your enemies, will not stop them from shooting, but it makes sense to keep the lines of communication open. It was no different in the worst times of the Cold War, between Russian rulers and American presidents, for example.

But most importantly, Duda, who claims to know more about people like Putin than others, is making a mistake pointed out by one of the best historians of Russia and Germany, Timothy Snyder: any legitimacy for himself, because Putin, in the words of the American Snyder, completely controls the media Russian, the majority of Russians followed his propaganda. Author of Bloodlands, the story of the destruction of the lands between Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany: “Ending the war means worrying more about Ukrainians and their future than worrying about Putin’s problems, which he never had.”

Criticism of Macron’s statements

This is an important point. If he is right, one need not even think about whether there is a “way out” for Putin, or a “face-saving solution” to end his aggressive war. Or whether one should be careful not to “humiliate” Russia, in the words of French President Macron. Macron had to come under a lot of criticism for this remark – and rightly so. Because it can be understood as appeasement, as if the French president had stabbed Ukraine in the back. Macron didn’t mean it that way. The French president tends to emphasize his personal importance and France’s position at the same time through his statements.

This is, if you will, purely Gaullist: France as a (nuclear) power can act independently of the Americans and Russians when in doubt. It’s fiction, but it’s as much a part of France’s national DNA as the vanity of its president. We should also not forget that parliamentary elections will be held in France on Sunday and that Macron is under pressure from the far right and the left, two pro-Putin parties.

Did anyone talk to Adolf Hitler in this way?

But the Polish Duda said more than that. In fact, he asked in the above interview regarding Schulz and Macron’s conversations with Putin: “Did anyone talk to Adolf Hitler in this way during World War II? Did someone say that Adolf Hitler should save face? Should we advance in a way that does not insult Adolf?” Hitler? I’ve never heard such voices.”

Thus, the Polish president compares the Ukraine war to World War II and equates Putin with Hitler. The first is simply false and the second is crude and ahistorical propaganda. The difference between the Ukraine War and World War II is that the Western allies are not at war and do everything they can to not be. Not only did Schulz say that at every opportunity, he is also the position of the entire NATO. Also the Poland line, notes Carlo Masala of the Munich University of the Federal Armed Forces.

And when it comes to comparisons to Hitler, they usually don’t go anywhere, Germans have had their own experiences with that. Consider the comparison made 25 years ago by Chancellor Helmut Kohl between Mikhail Gorbachev and Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Putin argues racially over Ukraine

Putin may be a ruthless nationalist, eclectic, and imperialist dictator, but he (so far) has not killed millions of people because he considers them subhuman. Its ideology may be far-right, but the industrial murder of six million Jews was and remains historically unprecedented.

However: Putin is arguing quite racially with respect to Ukraine when he has stated that the goal of his war is to “Russianize” that country. A confidant of Putin, his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, who is now the important deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, argues more brutally and more Nazi-like:

“They often ask me why I make such sharp posts on (digital platform, editor) Telegram. My answer: I hate them (Ukrainians, editor). They are whims and scum. As long as I live, I will do everything to make them go.”

Back to the Polish president: Duda’s attacks on Schulz and Macron are ill-advised because they reveal the apparent rift between the Western allies toward Russia. NATO countries are currently working on a unified strategy in the run-up to the upcoming Madrid Summit. What you do not need in this case is the recoil.

Because someone is looking forward to them: Vladimir Putin.

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