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Olaf Scholz — an 'offended liver sausage'?

May 3, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz isn't going to Kyiv. He's still steamed that Ukraine uninvited German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Against this backdrop, Ukraine's ambassador Andrij Melnyk had a colorful comeback.

Olaf Scholz adressing journalists outside Meseberg castle
Chancellor Scholz is used to criticism — but the ambassador's remarks were unusualImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, is known for his straight talk. Many in Germany's political circles are today wondering how undiplomatic a diplomat can get.

Melnyk's latest remarks targeted Chancellor Olaf Scholz, after he told German public broadcaster ZDF that he would not go to Kyiv becausePresident Frank-Walter Steinmeier was uninvited a few weeks ago.

"It's unacceptable to tell the president of a country that provides so much military assistance, so much financial assistance, that is needed when it comes to the security guarantees that are important for Ukraine in the future that he can't come," Scholz said.

Steinmeier, a former German Foreign Minister, had wanted to join his counterparts from Poland and the Baltic states on a trip to Kyiv to show his support but was rejected on the grounds of his past alleged coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It doesn't sound very statesmanlike to behave like a 'beleidigte Leberwurst' (offended liver sausage, eds.)" Melnyk told the DPA news agency in reference to Scholz's latest remarks. The term, "beleidigte Leberwurst," describes an overly thin-skinned person who goes into a huff.

"This is the most brutal war of extermination since the Nazi invasion of Ukraine. It's not kindergarten," Melnyk added.

Andrij Melnyk
The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany is not one to mince his wordsImage: Christophe Gateau/dpa/picture alliance

While Scholz would be welcome in Kyiv, Melnyk went on to say that it would be even better for the German government to "quickly fulfill the request from the parliament about sending heavy weapons."

Scholz had no immediate public response to Melnyk's comments. He and his cabinet are on a two-day retreat to discuss "the most important questions," Scholz said.

Other officials have spoken up in Scholz's silence. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, is a member of the smallest coalition partner in government, the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP). She is also chairperson of the Bundestag's defense committee and has herself visited Ukraine. She tried to smooth things over: "Perhaps Mr. Melnyk can apologize to the president and then kindly invite the chancellor," she said.

Heavy weapons deliveries 'the right signal'

Melnyk has been on the offensive against members of the German government and especially the Chancellor Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD). He has repeatedly accused them of "highly alarming closeness to Russia" over the years.

President Steinmeier, a fellow SPD member, was a close confidant of Gerhard Schröder during his two terms as chancellor. In that role, he had a "spiderweb of contacts with Russia," Melnyk told the German newspaper, Der Tagesspiegel. In a later tweet, Melnyk went even further, accusing the SPD's "Putin-friendly policies" of helping "lead to the barbaric war of extermination."

The SPD was hoping that a meeting a few weeks ago with the party's co-chief, Saskia Esken, would have calmed things down. But Melnyk's latest comment suggests that is not the case. At the same time, the party faces internal upheaval that Scholz needs to navigate, given a decades-long pacifist streak, that makes many SPD lawmakers uncomfortable with arming a combatant.

Scholz's hesitant posture, at least in public, has affected his approval ratings. Meanwhile, his government allies, such as the Greens' Robert Habeck, who serves as Scholz's vice chancellor and the economy minister, have been getting high marks for handling the crisis and communicating to the public about it.

Whether Scholz will start taking a page from Habeck's oratory playbook is unclear. Remarks he gave at a labor union rally on Sunday's May Day holiday showed a feistier version of the chancellor. Yet his appearance on ZDF a day later, when he ruled out a trip to Kyiv, suggested that may have been an exception.

This article was originally written in German.

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